Skimmers, small devices that steal personal information, make credit card fraud hard to track.
WEST ORANGE Four months ago, Dennis Marsico stopped to fill his gas tank at the 7-Eleven at Lakeside Village.
He paid at the pump with his debit card. As he was pumping his gas, he noticed a large white van in front of him. The back windows on the van were covered by old T-shirts.
“I just thought it was kind of odd,” Marsico said.
The van continued to sit at the station after he left.
He didn’t think more of it until a few days later, when his bank called him. His card had been charged $300 at a liquor store — a purchase Marsico had not made.
Since Marsico experienced credit-card fraud, his neighborhood’s Next Door social-media website has been filled with posts discussing credit-card fraud at local gas pumps, primarily gas pumps at local 7-Elevens. He has talked to friends who also say they experienced a similar situation at the gas station Marsico visited.
Marsico retraced his steps and did some research. Although he is not certain, he thinks it is possible the people in the van stole his information without even getting out of the car using a new technology called skimmers.
A skimmer is a device that can steal credit-card information. Some skimmers are placed on top of the credit-card reader. But now many are small enough to fit inside the reader itself.
“As technology has increased and gotten smaller, so have devices used to steal,” said Aaron Keller, press secretary for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Criminals can insert a skimmer in a card reader and leave it there for a period of time. When they return, they don’t even need to retrieve the skimmer. They simply can drive through the parking lot and, using Bluetooth technology, download the information of all the cards that have gone through the reader.
Earlier this year, the Florida Department of Agriculture conducted a statewide sweep looking for skimmers, Keller said. In three months, the department inspected more than 7,000 gas stations around the state and found more than 100 skimmers.
These skimmers are difficult for both gas station owners and law enforcement to monitor.
“Skimmers are a complex challenge in Florida,” Keller said.
Although Marsico’s bank returned the money to his account within a few weeks, Marsico pays close attention when he pumps gas. He pays for his purchases inside the store.
“You never know,” he said. “Just go inside. It’s not that much harder to do.”
Scott Allen, a lieutenant over support services at the Winter Garden Police Department, said anytime you slide a card, you should be aware.
“People are truly just not paying attention to what they’re doing,” he said.
Allen said people should exercise caution when using other machines such as ATMs or even sliding a card inside of a store.
Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].