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Montgomery County looks for gas pump skimmers before holiday weekend

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 5:07 PM
By: Sarah Cavender - Staff Writer

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of the summer travel season, also making it more likely that thieves will try to use credit card skimmers to steal your personal information at gas pumps.

This week Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith’s office started searching for skimming devices hidden within gas pumps.

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“We’re out now looking because of Memorial Day weekend; the holiday weekends are targets for skimming devices to be placed,” Keith said.

Skimming devices are used to record credit card numbers and debit card information. The devices are placed inside a pump and collect the data when customers swipe their cards.

No new devices have been found in the current Montgomery County sweep, but during inspections last year one was discovered in Butler Township. Since 2015, about 44 skimming devices were located in Ohio gas stations.

A large-scale inspection in 2016 around Labor Day weekend turned up five devices in Ohio — one in Greene County and four in the northeastern part of the state.

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In conjunction with the auditor’s pump inspections, gas stations are trying to crack down on the credit card fraud caused by the skimming devices, Keith said.

“Some stations have added locking mechanisms and alarms to fight crime,” he said.

Chip readers for cards are another way that companies can target fraud. Chip readers have been found to reduce the amount of fraud in the retail setting, and many gas stations have plans to install them to cut down on crime.

The original deadline date for gas stations to have the chip readers was October of this year, however, credit card companies have extended the deadline to 2020.

“A number of stations have already installed the chip reading machines at the pump. However, they are not activated yet,” Keith said.

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For now, consumers can pay with cash or, if using a credit card or debit card, they can go to the register instead of paying at the pump.

Some gas stations have a seal placed over or around a credit card reader at the pump, and tampered devices usually are ones that have a broken seal. Those who have used their credit card or debit card are advised to check monthly bank statements.

By the end of this week the auditor’s office will have checked more than 500 Montgomery County pumps. In Ohio, 65 county auditors collaborated on a statewide ‘Skimmer Sweep’ last year, inspecting more than 12,000 gas pumps.

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Additionally, Keith has hosted nine “Skimmer Summits” across the state to raise awareness about the dangers of gas pump skimmers and to teach prevention measures to station owners and interested individuals, his office said.

The auditor’s office has plans to check pumps for skimming devices during the annual maintenance checks.