Identity Thieves Laying Traps At Gasoline Pumps

(CBS Chicago) — Identity thieves are always looking for the easiest places to steal your credit card information.

Now, they’re targeting the one place many of us can’t avoid: the gas pump.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports on how your next fill-up could empty your wallet.

Jeff Tubacki, an inspector with the Illinois Bureau of Weights and Measures, showed Tucker how thieves get credit card information – by installing a “skimmer” in the pump.

You’d never know it because skimmers are placed inside the gas pumps by criminals like the ones captured on hidden camera in Phoenix, Ariz.

“Nowadays, that little device can also be Bluetooth-enabled. They can transmit that information to Chicago, to Wisconsin,” Tubacki says.

Mia Forman is convinced she was a victim of skimming. Just hours after pumping $15 of gas at a BP in Lansing, she had a new charge from the same station.

“I was devastated. It was $152. I was very shocked about it. It’s my money, I work hard for it,” Forman says.

State investigators confirmed a skimming device was discovered in June at that BP station and one more nearby on the same day. Since May, three others were found around the state. Local police also found one in Lombard and another in Des Plaines.

In 2015, skimmers were also found in Wilmette, Elmhurst, River Forest, and Benton Harbor, Mich.

It’s a call to action from the Illinois Bureau of Weights and Measures. They’re teaching gas station owners what the devices look like and what to do if they find one.

Stolen credit card accounts were traced to 105 skimmers at gas stations last year, according to the analytics firm Risk Based Security. So far this year, there have been 113, according to security experts.

Sonya Tompkins wonders if gas stations are the source behind her stolen account information.

“Once your card has been compromised as many as mine you think about where you use your card at. And I think a lot about the places I frequently use it and that’s the gas station,” Tompkins says.

Gas stations are among the last places where you still swipe your credit card. Pumps are not required to have EMV chip readers until October 2017.

The Lansing station is starting the switchover to chip readers. Other owners, including Craig Breel, are taking precautions.

“Once a month we open things up just to make sure everything looks good,” he says.

“Owners should be more diligent and then the credit card companies. They’re the ones that are getting hit,” Tubacki says..

Some advice for consumers are to use a pump closest to the store windows; constantly check your credit card for unfamiliar charges, and use cash if possible. You can also look for an external skimmer by checking for any loose keypads or card readers, but remember, there could still be a skimmer installed in the pump.

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