LOUISIANA – Louisiana has seen a notable increase in the number of skimming devices found at gas pumps throughout the state.
According to Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, the department’s Weights and Measures division is finding at least one or two skimmers per week, and consumers are also alerting the office to more skimmers at the gas pumps.
“Skimmers” are devices inserted at gas pumps that can read your debit or credit card information and use it to make unauthorized purchases on your cards.
In the past month, the LDAF confiscated at least 15 skimming devices throughout the state with about 4,000 credit or debit card numbers, according to the U.S. Secret Service.
The skimmers were found in Avoyelles, Calcasieu, Jefferson, Lafayette, Rapides, St. Landry, St. Tammany and Washington parishes.
“Unfortunately, thieves are always looking for ways to stay one step ahead of authorities. Our inspectors continue to look for anything suspect and we remind convenience store employees to stay alert and try to monitor what is actually taking place at a gas pump,” said Strain. “Ask yourself, is it someone purchasing gasoline or someone manipulating the cabinet on the pump? As for the consumer, if you do not pay cash, we urge you to be vigilant in monitoring your credit card statements weekly, if not daily, for unauthorized purchases.”
Strain said skimming devices used to be easily recognized when the gas pump credit card machines were opened because they were crudely put together and often had a homemade look, but the new skimmers are smaller and easier to hide. Some of the newer devices also have Bluetooth capability which allows them to transmit the financial information that they steal. This means that the perpetrators do not have to remove the devices to obtain the information they have skimmed.
Strain’s office offers the following tips to protect your personal information:
• Whenever possible, do not use the debit card function at the gas pump. Use it as a credit card in order to protect your pin number.
• Monitor your debit/credit card activity online and contact your bank to report unrecognized charges.
• Whenever using a credit card, try to use a pump that is easily seen by gas station employees. Pumps that are less visible are commonly targeted because crooks can easily install a skimmer which normally takes very little time.
• Check the pump card reader for signs of forced entry like bent panels or broken security tape.
Once the skimming devices are analyzed, all financial institutions affected are contacted by the Secret Service.