Crooks are again using devices called skimmers to steal credit card information.
I used to carefully examine the outside of gas pumps to see if I could spot a device attached to the machines. Now I've learned you won't notice the skimmer because it can be installed inside the machine where credit card information is read.
Colorado Springs police detective Wayne Lambert said the agency's financial crimes unit, working with detectives in Fountain, El Paso County, and Monument, have discovered 16 skimmers in the last 18 months.
Arrest warrants have been issued for two suspects.
Lambert said in about a minute, a crook can open a lock on a gas pump and attach the device to the credit card reader. Then the faceplate is reattached and the skimmer is left in place to be retrieved later. He said some skimmers have bluetooth capabilities, meaning the crook can drive up to the pump and download the information wirelessly.
Lambert said each device can collect 2,000 credit card numbers.
Even chip credit cards are not safe - yet. Chip card readers won't be required at gas pumps until at least October. The best advice is to pay inside or use the pump that's closest to the gas station worker.
"I would not purchase gas on the outside pumps," Lambert said. "All of the 16 that we've recovered were on outside gas pumps, and not on the inside ones where all the clerks can see what's going on."
Lambert said some gas stations put tape over the key hole so you can look to see if it has been tampered with. He said he would like to see gas stations become more proactive and change the way the boxes lock.
"If they change those locks, make it a little bit more difficult, then the suspects would move on to another station where it's easier to break into," he said.
Lambert said most pay-at-the-pump customers don't find out their card has been compromised until unrecognized purchases start showing up. That's why it's important to check your credit card activity regularly.
By taking a few extra steps, you might stay ahead of the crooks.
Contact Betty Sexton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-0000.