When it comes to one’s personal finances, it’s up to each individual to find ways to protect themselves from criminals who would steal from most anyone. With that said, technological advancements are making it increasingly more difficult to stop criminals who are using somewhat mundane activities such as getting gasoline as an opportunity to steal personal credit/debit card information.

In several large residential areas throughout the state of Arizona, criminals are finding ways to attach “skimming devices” to the credit card readers found on self-pay gasoline pumps. In the first eight months of this year, 52 skimming devices have been discovered by the Arizona Department of Agriculture. By comparison, it’s starting to look like an epidemic, considering only 11 of these devices were found in all of 2015.

Where the Devices Have Been Found

It’s important to understand that the gas station owners are not to blame for this activity. They are indeed victims themselves. With that in mind, the Department of Agriculture does not want to publicly state where these affected pumps were located. However, patrons of gas stations at certain intersections in Phoenix, Yuma and Tucson have been warned to exhibit extra caution.

How Do Skimming Devices Work

In this day and age, technology has advanced to the point where undetectable skimmers are now available to would be criminals. All these devious people need is access inside the credit card reader where they would place the skimming device. In many cases, accessed is being gained via a master key that has most likely been duplicated. Once inside, the criminal places the skimmer in between the circuit board and credit card reader. It has been estimated that a skimmer can be attached within several seconds. From that point on, the skimmer extracts the credit card and pin numbers from the electronic strip every time a credit or debit card is used to pay for gas.

The next step for the criminals is extracting the data from the skimmer. In some cases, they have to return to the scene of the crime and retrieve the device. In other cases, Bluetooth technology is being used to transmit the data to outside electronic devices such as tablets, PCs and even cell phones. Once the criminal has this data, unsuspecting victims are subject to having money and their identity stolen.

Protecting Against This Activity

Armed with the knowledge of what is going on around the nation, it is incumbent on each and every gas station owner to frequently check all credit card readers, internal and external, for skimmers on a daily basis. In the event some gas stations fail to do so, there are certain steps that consumers can take to protect themselves.

First, paying with cash is now and will always be the safest way to pay for anything. If a credit or debit card purchase is a must, consumers would be well-advised to check with the proprietors about when they last checked for skimmers. If not recently, the patron should find another gas station or payment alternative.

Given the increased levels of credit card crimes being perpetrated against unsuspecting victims, all consumers should arm themselves with the knowledge of how to easily check their credit card activity and how to handle unauthorized credit inquiries. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

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