Extra inspectors checking Butler County’s gas pumps for skimmers

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Shell gas station owner talks about precautions against credit card skimmers.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

HOW TO PREVENT BECOMING A VICTIM AT THE PUMP

  • Never use a debit card when paying for gas at the pump. Thieves steal PIN numbers.
  • Report any unusual activity or anything that looks out of place
  • Monitor monthly bank card and credit card statements for fraudulent charges
  • Use cash to pay for purchases whenever possible
  • If you believe you have been a victim of a skimmer scam, notify local law enforcement as well as your bank and credit card issuer immediately.

Sources: Butler County and Montgomery County Auditor’s Offices

As Judy Hoisington filled up her car’s gas tank Thursday in West Chester, an inspector from the Butler County Auditor’s Office was on the other side of the station checking for credit card skimmers.

The small devices installed by thieves to record customer's bank account numbers have been found inside at least two gas pumps in the county in the past few weeks. That prompted the auditor's office to add extra inspectors for the busy summer driving season. Five inspectors will now be checking pumps at the county's 130 gas stations.

The devices are popular at busy gas stations along the Interstate 75 corridor, according to Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds, who hosted a “skimmer summit” last month to better educate business owners about the problem.

An experienced thief can install a skimmer in seconds and data is then used to create fake cards with the customer’s bank account or charge account, according to Trooper Fred Applegate, who is assigned to the Ohio Financial Crimes Task Force.

“They can (install) it in about 30 seconds,” said Applegate, adding the thieves no longer have to return to the gas station to retrieve the devices.

It is estimated that as many as 70 percent of consumers use a credit card at the pump, with 50 percent of those using a debit card, which poses the biggest risk, according to officials.

“Never, never use a debit card at the pump,” Tom Kamphaus, an inspector with the auditor’s office said Thursday as he was out checking gas pumps. “If you do, run it as a credit card. Don’t punch in the pin.”

If the thieves get the card info, plus the pin, they can use it to make a fake card and start emptying the checking account at an ATM. Even without the pin, crooks can start making purchases from money in your bank account right away.

“I never use a credit card,” Hoisington said. “I don’t trust anybody.” She’d heard about the two skimmers found inside Butler County gas pumps recently. Now she realizes her practice is a smart one.

Kamphaus, who has found several of the six skimmers discovered in the county since November, said he will be using cash to pay for gas during his family’s upcoming vacation.

“Plan ahead,” he said. “I always pay cash, and this trip will be no different.”

And it is not just gas pumps getting hit by the high-tech crooks. False faces on self-checkouts with card readers have been reported in other counties.

A day after attending Reynolds’ “skimmer summit,” a Walmart manager suggested self-checkouts be inspected in area stores. Skimmers were found inside at least three stores — two in Hamilton County and one in Northern Kentucky.

Kamphaus suggests giving the card reader a shake before using it, because false fronts are held in place with tape and will become loose if jiggled.

Gagan Agrawal, owner of the Shell gas station on Cincinnati-Columbus Road, said he is doing is “level best” to stop skimmers at his pumps.

He has been placing security tape over the locks on the pumps. If the tape is torn, the pump may have been tampered with.

Agrawal said when the security tape is pulled up, the surface turns white with with the word “VOID,” which is a further warning that the gas pump may have been tampered with.

“The last couple of months we have heard in the news about skimmers in the pump, we had to do something,” Agrawal said. “This helps a lot, but they (thieves ) are very smart.”