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Skimming Device Found On MetroCard Machine At 59th-Columbus Circle Subway Station

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Subway riders beware – the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has uncovered another skimming device at a MetroCard vending machine – this time at the busy 59th Street-Columbus Circle stop in the heart of Midtown.

The discovery prompted the MTA to look at each and every subway station to see if the skimmers were there too.

The device, along with a hidden camera, was discovered around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday on the vending machine at the north end of the southbound No. 1 train platform at the station, the MTA said in a news release.

An unidentified customer found the device with its intricate web of wires inside the card reader, took it out of the machine, and gave it to the station agent on duty, the MTA said. The hidden camera was wired to shoot images through a pinhole inside a plug adapter mounted above the machine.

Skimmers steal information from the magnetic strip on credit and debit cards. Then, the tiny cameras record pin numbers as people punch them in.

As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, MetroCard buyers were disturbed to learn of the scam.

“They put this in here so we can actually move along the city quickly, and now we can’t even trust it?” said Erica Coleman of the South Bronx.

Columbus Circle Subway Skimmer

A hidden camera found at the 59th Street-Columbus Circle subway station on Wednesday, April 9. (Credit: MTA)

New York City Transit urged anyone who purchased a MetroCard at that location using a credit or debit card to check immediately with their bank or credit card company to check their accounts for any unauthorized activity.

The agency has already dispatched staff to check MetroCard vending machines throughout the system for other devices, the MTA said.

“As was the case yesterday, we continue to ask our customers ‘If You See Something, Say Something,’ particularly if they notice any suspicious activity or device in our system,” MTA New York City Transit President Carmen Bianco said in a news release.

Police said earlier this week that they are seeking a suspect after similar skimming devices were found at the Long Island Rail Road station in Baldwin.

Workers found the card skimmers and tiny hidden cameras last week during a routine inspection, police said.

On Monday, MTA police said a man who has been identified as Vasile Ovidiu Haidau, 35, was seen tampering with a ticket machine at the Baldwin station.

When officers tried to stop him, police said he took off. He was last seen driving west on Sunrise Highway in a 2004 blue Volvo S80 rental car with NY plates GKR5959.

Haidau is a Romanian national who is believed to be part of a credit card and identity-theft ring whose members were previously arrested in California in 2013, police said.

He has a revoked visa and is known to travel with another white man in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Long Island, police said. Haidau is not known to carry weapons, but police said he should be considered dangerous.

In the wake of the incidents, police told commuters all over the Tri-State Area to check their credit card statements and try to use cash.

“If you do the old school way, you know, stick with cash — it’s much easier, it’s much safer,” said Kyle Enriquez of Ronkonkoma.

“I’m a little shocked and a little bit outraged because, you know, we are trusting the Transit Authority to, you know, protect us from these things,” said Gabrielle Everette of the Upper West Side.

Authorities have not identified any suspects in connection with the skimming device at the 59th Street-Columbus Circle subway station.

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