TYLER, Texas (KETK) — For years East Texans have been dealing with card skimmer criminals taking money by using devices attached to card readers. Here are ways officials are urging locals to be vigilant this upcoming holiday season.

“It has been a problem,” said Mechele Mills, President of the Central East Texas Better Business Bureau.

East Texans have fallen victim to this scheme, where often criminals will take money by using devices attached to card readers like gas pumps. Just last year, a man was sentenced to 65 years in prison for his part in a 2019 card-skimming ring in Tyler.

“That was a good catch for everybody,” said Andy Erbaugh, Public Information Officer with the Tyler Police Department.

The problem does not seem to be going away. The director of the Texas Financial Crimes Intelligence Center Adam Colby tells KETK News that the biggest issues currently in Smith County are with card skimmers in ATMs.

Tyler’s Police Department said that it is easy for the criminals to do this.

“A lot of times what they do is distract the clerk and they will slap a number pad over [the existing number pad] and then it will record your pin number,” said Erbaugh.

Mills advises that if there is a need to pull out cash, the best practice is to visit a bank if there is one nearby.

“You can use cash, but go to a bank. Go inside and withdraw your money that way,” she said. “That is the safest way so you are not swiping anything.”

Another safe option is by using contactless payment methods.

“Use the tap to pay,” added Mills. “It is better than swiping the information. Another thing you can do, which is also much safer, is to use [systems] that encrypt the data like Apple Pay and Google Pay.”

Using these methods are the best ways to help keep your assets as safe as possible.

The holiday season is quickly approaching and the BBB says this is the time of the year when criminals using these methods will be most active.

Officials add that it is critical to always be alert when you use non-cash payment methods.