Skimmer devices on gas pumps growing problem

Criminals attach the devices to gas pumps to steal credit card information.

The skimmer, found by inspectors from the Montgomery County Auditor’s Office, is the first one detected in about two years in the county. The device was discovered on one of 12 pumps checked Thursday during a special review conducted in response to the discovery of a skimmer on gas pump in Marietta on Oct. 29, Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith said.

Pumps in Fayette County have also been victimized recently; The problem is nationwide and growing, officials said Friday.

“It’s been happening all around the country,” Keith said. “You just take it for granted. You’re very vulnerable.”

To guard against being victimized, consumers are advised to use credit, rather than debit, cards. This prevents the thieves from also making off with PIN numbers providing access to bank accounts.

While the devices are connected inside the pumps, broken seals can be a sign of tampering. Any broken seals or suspicious behavior around pumps should be reported to station owners or local police.

In addition, careful scrutiny of credit-card bills can help detect identity theft or credit-card fraud.

“The safest thing is to pay by cash, but that’s not convenient any more,” Keith said.

Local police should also be alerted about questionable charges.

Inside the pump in Vandalia, the inspectors found a small, square palm-sized electronic device, less than two inches long.

Vandalia police confirmed they were conducting an investigation of the device, but referred all questions to Keith’s office.

The U.S. Secret Service also investigates credit-card fraud and identity theft.

Thieves can install the devices in minutes, according to authorities, complicating detection efforts.

In Montgomery County, Keith said, staffers checking pumps for other problems now take the time to look for skimming devices too. He said there were about 200 pumps in Montgomery County.

So far, no skimmers have been detected in Warren County, Auditor Matt Nolan said.

“We are watching for the signs of them,” he said.

Some station owners have taken steps to secure their pumps, including the use of key-specific locks and holographic seals.

“A lot of stations are being proactive to prevent it,” Nolan said.

A skimming device was recovered by a customer at an Fifth Third Bank ATM in Deerfield Twp., Warren County, in June 2012.

The device, which collected PIN numbers, was a replica of the slot where debit or credit cards were inserted, according to the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

Surveillance video was also captured. It was unclear if any arrests were ever made.

This summer, two Bulgarian immigrants were arrested on charges of using skimming devices stealing bank and credit card numbers in southwestern Ohio.

Dimitar Angelov, 28, and Dimitar Kolev, 26, pleaded not guilty to fraud charges Wednesday in federal court in Cincinnati.

On Friday, Greene County Auditor David Graham said no skimmers had been detected by his office.

“Every station we check we are looking for them,” he said in an email.

Keith said inspectors were back out Friday checking pumps due to the discovery of the skimmer at the Vandalia station. The special checks were concentrated on stations around interstates and high-traffic areas.

Keith said consumers needed to be vigilant, but not overly concerned.

“It’s something they have to be on the watch for,” he said. “But not too concerned.”

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