AUSTIN (KXAN) — Looking for sketchy bluetooth signals at the pump is now considered an obsolete tip — expert credit card skimmers have caught on and become more advanced.
There’s over 6 billion credit and debit card transactions at convenience stores each year in Texas. That’s considered a goldmine for someone who’s thinking about skimming off the top.
Saad El-Murr is a gas station owner in Elgin. He had no idea one of his pumps had been hit until a customer told him $500 had been drained from her account.
“I had to work with her because if I didn’t, she would never come back to my store,” El-Murr said.
But new technology will help both you and workers like El-Murr spot the bad guys.
“Even to the trained eye, you can’t always find them,” said Wes Nance, the Director of Service for Petroleum Service, Inc. “They are very good at hiding them. At putting them in places where professionals can’t even find them.”
The next time you head to the gas pump, experts say to look for these two things to ensure safety:
- A horizontal card reader, which keeps your information secure
- a raised key pad, which will encrypt your pin number as you put it in.
Nance said this is something to be taken seriously.
“When you go to the gas station, if they don’t have the horizontal card readers, you pull away and go to the next one. I’ve never removed a skimmer from a dispenser that had a hard key pad and a horizontal card reader.”
Also, don’t be afraid to embrace the future. Experts say to use new technology like Google and Apple Pay, which don’t require your data to confirm the transaction.
The software is new, so don’t be alarmed if your favorite gas station doesn’t have the horizontal card reader yet. But you’ll likely see them popping up more frequently. Gas stations across the nation will be required to install them by 2020 if they don’t want to be held liable for any fraudulent activity.
Is this happening where I live?
KXAN checked and most credit card skimmers in the last year have been found in North Austin. Law enforcement and state officials have indicated skimmers found at these seven locations.
The majority were in North Austin, one was in South Austin, and another in East Austin.
Penalty for skimmers
Just this year, one Texas County sentenced a man to life for card skimming. In February, Yoerlan Suarez-Corrales was convicted in Tyler.
He was arrested last summer, accused with a pair of others for installing and using stolen information from skimmers set up at multiple gas stations across the county. He was already on parole from Louisiana for the same crime. He’s eligible for parole in 30 years.
The right tools for law enforcement
There are multiple bills in the legislature right now to toughen penalties for credit card skimming.
There is also one to create an anti-gang center in Tyler, focusing on the crime. Smith County has had several problems with skimmers in recent years.