Avoid getting 'skimmed' at the pump - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Avoid getting 'skimmed' at the pump

If you're fueling up your vehicle for the July 4 holiday, you may want to think twice about paying at the pump. (Source: Pixabay.com) If you're fueling up your vehicle for the July 4 holiday, you may want to think twice about paying at the pump. (Source: Pixabay.com)

Paying at the pump with your credit or debit card is convenient, but it can make you an easy target of a scam that is becoming more prevalent.

The U.S. Secret Service is warning the public about 'skimmers', and this past weekend the federal agency recovered almost 60 skimmers from numerous states.

The discrete devices can be installed inside chip readers at ATMs and gas pumps, and if you swipe your sensitive card information and your pin number is stolen and can be used and sold on the black market.

Detective Orrin Hawkins with Cape Girardeau police says millions of Americans have faced huge financial losses because their information was stolen with a skimming device.

“We can confirm that individuals information was taken in common area in Cape,” Hawkins said.

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Nick Steimle of New Hamburg, MO, says he always fills up his gas at the pump and finds it terrifying that skimmers are being used in the area.

“Obviously you would feel invaded. You would start questioning everything,” Steimle said. “I can’t even begin to unravel how many accounts you would have to close and all the things you would have to do. Is the mortgage safe, is everything safe.”

Detective Hawkins says it can be very difficult to catch criminals that plant skimming devices because they move from city to city and it can take weeks before victims realize they’ve been hacked.

“It is a constantly moving operation,” he said. “If we were able to confirm that a device had a skimmer in it, maybe we would set up some sort of counter-surveillance on that location and wait and see if that individual would return back and then we would act at that point.”

Common red flags that Hawkins checks for to spot a skimmer are the card readers and keypads, which may have mismatching colors, and the security seal on the side of a gas pump may be broken.

But as technology advances, the detective says the devices are becoming smaller and harder to notice.

“Whenever they are installed, unless you have an eye and you are looking for it, it may be impossible to see,” Hawkins said. “It can be a film that is placed, double-sided tape, anything like that. Once the card is swiped it is reading your magnetic strip on the back of your card."

Steimle doesn’t think the threat will convince him to stop the quick, simple option of paying at the pump.

“I don’t know if it will change any of my habits though I may be just that stupid,” he said. “I’m just going to keep taking the risk and keep getting out of here in a timely manner.”

Hawkins says the best way to avoid a skimmer all together is to pay inside using a card reader or with cash.

Garrett Siebert, who grew up in Cape, says he also pays at the pump a majority of the time but after hearing about skimmers plans to be more cautious, especially on a road trip.

“I’d probably just go inside,” Siebert said. “Going in, yeah it takes a couple more minutes, but what is a couple more minutes if they’re not going to steal anything.”

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