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.”