KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
October 26, 2020
By Natalie Cook Clark
Paying for purchases with a credit or debit card provides many conveniences, especially for thieves. Authorities frequently get calls from victims who have had their financial information compromised. These complaints often point to credit card skimming at gas station pumps.
What Are Skimmers?
Skimmers are illegal devices made to be affixed to the mouth of an ATM or credit card reader. They secretly steal credit and debit card information when unsuspecting customers enter their cards into the machines.
Experts estimate skimmer fraud costs consumers in the U.S. more than $1 billion annually.
Thieves attach skimmers onto ATM, gas station credit card terminals, or any other payment terminals. They can easily slip the devices on terminals that are out in the open. When a card is swiped, the data is collected and later used for fraudulent charges.
Skimming at Local Gas Station
Katy residents have turned to social media to warn others of local credit card skimmers at gas stations.
On October 19, Chris Cortez, Katy, took to social media to warn others of his recent experience at an Exxon Mobil gas station on Mason Road.
“The station attempted to charge my bank card $166 in gas purchases, which the bank declines, and another of $10.73,” writes Cortez on Nextdoor.
Another Katy resident responded to his warning. He reported a similar experience.
“The same thing happened to me at that location, about six months ago,” writes Johnny Gonzalez. “Looks like they are at it again. I have not been back nor will.”
Cortez went through his bank to cancel his card and get a replacement.
Warnings from Authorities
Authorities strongly advise residents to use caution when using public credit/debit card machines.
“We frequently get calls about possible skimmers at gas stations,” says Jeff McShan, Personal Information Officer with Constable Ted Heap’s Office. “Precinct 5 works with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Houston Police Department to investigate these reports.”
Constable Ted Heap’s Office offers advice on how to avoid being a victim of such crimes.
How to Detect Gas Pump Skimmers
Check the pump panel for tampering. If the security tape is ripped, avoid the pump station.
Inspect the card slot and the PIN pad (compare with other pumps).
Be on the lookout for hidden cameras.
Avoid the PIN pad entirely.
Choose the pump closest to the gas station.
Tips to Reduce Your Chances for Credit Card Skimming/Fraud
Use indoor ATMs with security cameras nearby
Choose an ATM with a card reader that is inset into the machine.
Set up mobile banking alerts to be notified of credit card activity as it happens.
Save receipts and monitor your bank statements on a regular basis. Credit card skimmers don't always use bank information immediately. It could be months later.
Report skimming or fraud immediately to your bank and local law enforcement.
Avoid doing business at unfamiliar places or questionable online sites.
Check electronic readers for any evidence of tampering. If the card reader appears loose or broken, report it to an attendant and find a more secure device to use.