SANDY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - Utah police investigators said crooks have installed electronic "skimming" devices at 180 gas stations from Salt Lake to Provo in an attempt to steal bank card and pin numbers.
“The skimming device is actually located inside the gas pump,” said Sandy Police Sgt. Troy Arnold, who estimated that hundreds of people used the pay-at-the-pump device at the 7-11 store located at 2185 East 9400 South in Sandy without knowing crooks had installed an electronic device inside pump. The “Skimmer” copied card and pin numbers giving the criminals free access to the victim’s bank accounts. “What they were able to do is to place a secondary pin pad inside this gas pump,” said Arnold.
The store manager noticed something out of the ordinary and alerted the Sandy police who discovered the electronic skimmer equipped with a miniature transmitter to copy the card number and a hidden key pad to record the pin number. “Without somebody notifying somebody, this device could actually sit on a gas pump for months on end without anybody ever knowing that it exists,” Arnold said.
Crooks used the stolen card information captured by the device to steal more than $11,000 using ATM machines in Los Angeles. Sandy resident Scott Ligon said he fills up his car at the 7-11 store here all the time. “I can't tell the difference between the fake one or the real one so yeah I would stick my card in it.”
Investigators don't know how many card numbers the crooks stole but believe they installed the skimming devices at 180 different gas stations along the Wasatch front during the past four months. “The only way that you're going to know if you've fallen victim to this is if your credit card starts being used or if your debit card number starts being used or your bank account money is taken out of it,” Arnold said.
To beat the bandits police advise gasoline customers to pay credit or debit inside and use cash whenever they can. “A lot of times I do pay cash,’ said Sandy resident Matt Rabe. “It's my money. I don't want somebody else having it.”
In July Visa plans to require all merchants to start using equipment with triple data encryption standards that prevent skimming. Until then investigators said gasoline customers take a risk every time they swipe their card. “It is a little bit of an inconvenience but its a much more inconvenience to have to try to get your credit back in line once they've began using your credit card,” Arnold said.
Investigators said it only takes crooks about 30-seconds to remove the entire card device from a gas pump and replace it with an identical one fitted with the electronic skimmers. Police said the criminals usually only withdraw small amounts from victim’s accounts hoping they won't notice. Investigators said the electronic gas pump thieves steal millions of dollars from card holders and credit card companies each year in every state in the U.S.