Skimmer summit aims to stop theft of credit card info

After inspectors discovered six credit card skimmers at gas pumps in Montgomery, Butler and Hamilton counties in November, county auditors and other local and state officials met in Trotwood on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

“We just want to raise awareness and meet with different people that are involved and see what kind of things we can do to prevent this from getting completely out of hand,” said Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith, who hosted the Gas Pump Skimmer Summit.

Keith said weights and measures inspectors have examined about half of the more than 200 gas pumps in Montgomery County as part of their annual inspection process, and only one skimmer was found. However, he said his office remains vigilant, especially when neighboring counties discover skimmers.

“The one that was found in Butler County just before Thanksgiving was near the Montgomery County line … close to Germantown, so … there were four stations in Montgomery County in Germantown that we went and checked. … But we didn’t find anything there,” he said.

Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper Frank Applegate, who spoke at the summit, investigates card-skimming cases. He said they have become more prevalent over the last few years.

“They’ve wreaked havoc over multiple states,” Applegate said. “I’d hear about one (in Ohio) every couple months. Now I’m getting emails weekly.”

Applegate said OSHP’s card skimmer investigations usually result from traffic stops where troopers may notice “bundles of gift cards” or stories that don’t match.

“Most times we’re getting the back end of this crime.We’re finding indicators that they have obtained credit card numbers via some criminal act such as gas pump skimmers. They use those skimmers to obtain people’s credit card numbers and then they go obtain gift cards and change those into money orders and commit their crime that way,” he explained.

Joe Singleton of Trotwood will now only pay cash at the gas station after someone stole his credit card information.

“My credit card was ran up to almost $700 and my bank finally got a hold of what was going on,” he said. “From that point on, I made sure that I was very careful when I used it.”

Keith said there are a number of things card users can do to prevent their information from being stolen. The most important one: Don’t use a debit card.

“If they were to skim your information, that gives them both your account number and your pin number and gives them direct access to your bank account,” Keith said.

Some gas pumps also have seals on them, according to Keith. He suggested avoiding pumps that appear to have seals broken. Keith also said newer gas pumps are harder for thieves to break into and install a skimmer.

“Some of the stations with newer pumps have put site-specific locking mechanisms on those pumps that make them very difficult to … break into,” Keith said.

He explained that some older stations use universal keys, which are easily accessible. Keith said his department was able to purchase a universal key for $3 plus the cost of shipping on eBay.

“The (pumps) that are most vulnerable are ones that are hard to see, or farthest away from an attendant, you know, away from a camera. Places where the station isn’t open 24 hours,” he said.

Keith said his office depends on the public to help keep skimmers out of gas pumps by reporting anything that may appear suspicious.

“One thing to keep in mind is once we’ve checked that station and gone away, it becomes vulnerable again,” Keith said. “We are doing our part, but we really want consumers to do their part and station owners and attendants to do their part as well.”

The summit was co-hosted by Clark County Auditor John Federer, Greene County Auditor David Graham and Warren County Auditor Matt Nolan.

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