Here's how you can detect a card skimmer on a gas pump

Gina Gaston Image
Saturday, April 28, 2018
Here's how you can detect a card skimmer on a gas pump
Here's how you can detect a card skimmer on a gas pump

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Nearly every motorist has to get gasoline for their car at some point. Only Charlie Molina's late night fill-up was a high-tech hold-up.

"I got hit," said Molina. "And I just happened to check my account that night or probably the next day, and I had been hit for about $850."

Sites like eBay and other online vendors have every tool available for these tech-savvy thieves. They're able to build credit card skimmers for about $50 in parts. The goal is simple: swiping your money.

Security and IT expert Colman Ryan says they're breaking into gas pumps to install these skimmers in as fast as one minute, and you can't tell from the outside piece that the inside had been compromised.

"They just put in the key, unlock it, open up this door, and they could deploy in a minute," said Ryan. "And they don't have to come back here and retrieve the skimmer to get my credit card information. They could be across the street."

It is Bluetooth technology that allows thieves to download the data from afar. They can get not just your credit card information, but also your security pin number if you use your debit card.

There are things you can do to decrease your chances of being scammed.

First, check to see if there's a lock on the pump which will keep thieves out. Also, don't fill up at the tanks far out of the sight of the station attendant. Thieves usually put skimmers in these pumps because they can do it undetected.

Also, if there is security tape on the pump, don't use it if that tape has been broken.

Also, use credit cards rather than debit. You can always dispute fraudulent charges on a credit card, but if criminals get a hold of your pin number associated with your debit card, they could potentially drain your account.

And if you have an Android or Windows-operated phone there's an app created to detect Bluetooth radio signals in the area.

"That's why there is Skimmer Scanner. It's an app created for that purpose. It detects Bluetooth radio because they're so prominent now," said Ryan.

That free app is easy to use. Before filling up, just turn it on and place it near the pump you're using. If it says "No Skimmer Detected," you're good to go. However, if it states "Found Possible Skimmer," detecting the code HC-05 or 06, you should fill up at a different gas station.

You can find more tips here.

The Texas Food and Fuel Association is working on a bill in the next Legislative Session, which begins on Jan. 8, 2019, that will enact stiffer penalties for those in possession of skimming devices.

RELATED: How to spot a skimmer and avoid identity theft

Learn what to look for to avoid the devices that want to steal your personal information