Pelion, SC (Paul Kirby) – Pelion Police Chief Chris Garner has said that he received a report over the weekend via social media that there may have been a credit card skimmer placed on one of the gas pumps at a convenience store in Pelion. The department is checking into these reports, but Chief Garner is offering several tips to protect yourself from these devices.
Credit card skimmers are devices that can be quickly placed on or in any device that accepts credit or debit cards. It is a portable capture device that can be on or in a legitimate card scanner. The skimmer records your card data as you insert your credit card into the real scanning device and saves it for the thieves.
Credit card thieves will often temporarily affix the card skimmer device to gas pumps, ATMs, or other convenient self-service point-of-sale terminals. The bad guys like gas pumps and ATMs because they are easy to retrieve their skimmers from and they generally receive a lot of traffic.
The purpose of these devices is to collect the personal information of the card user that can then either be used to buy products by the thief, or the data can be sold to other unscrupulous individuals.
In the case of the reported skimmers in Pelion, a man became suspicious when he inserted his card into a gas pump and the screen asked him for his pin number and his zip code. Chief Garner says that this is a dead giveaway that your information is in danger of being compromised.
If you use your card, and you select the debit function, you should only be required to enter your pin number. Chief Garner recommends that you use your other hand to shield this number while you punch it in the key pad. He said that even if someone is not standing near you, thieves have ways of seeing what number you’ve entered, even from some distance.
If you select the credit function at a pump, you should only be required to enter your zip code. Once again, use your free hand to shield all private information entered on any key pad that is in view of the public. Once again, a real credit card reader should never ask you for both your pin and zip code at the same time.
Garner suggests that if you in any way feel something isn’t right with your card at the pump transaction, go inside and have the attendant process your card at the register. You can pre-pay for the amount of fuel you’d like to buy, and if you actually pump less than the amount you prepaid for, your card will only be charged for the amount of fuel you pumped.
Chief Garner said that one of the most frightening things about the Pelion case was that when the public discovered the credit card skimmers last weekend, they did not notify the police right away. Instead, they posted it on social media and then trusted that the police would find out that way.
Although social media is a good way to spread the word quickly, the thieves can quickly move to another location and begin their fraudulent activity again. They may also have other devices around the area that haven’t been discovered yet.
If the police are notified, they can surveil the skimmers and will have a better chance of apprehending the criminals who are behind the fraud. Trained officers would also know to quickly check other readers in the area for similar devices. They can also use video equipment from around the area in an attempt to catch the crooks who installed the equipment.
The police department also has a network of public information officers that cooperate across the county to quickly spread the word about these types of things. In the event that illegal activities are detected, a general news release from the police can be sent to media outlets across the Midlands and the state. This would allow for tens of thousands of people to be warned quickly of the fraudulent attempts.
Last year in the town of Swansea, a lot of credit card user information was stolen by thieves. That information was sold to others who used it to make duplicate cards that were then used across the area, state, and nation. In those cases, Chief Cliff Hayes of the Swansea PD worked closely with the US Secret Service to make several arrests.
If you suspect that a skimmer is being used where you are attempting to use your credit or debit card, do not attempt to remove the suspicious device on your own. Instead, immediately notify the police department and then wait for them to arrive. In Lexington County, most can be reached in a non-emergency situation such as this by calling (803) 785-2521.