I-Team: Skimmers hidden in gas pumps

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - Thieves are looking to max out your credit cards or drain your bank accounts.  The 22News I-Team has a warning for you about skimmers in our area.

Thieves steal your information from this magnetic strip on your credit or debit cards. In just the last two months, two skimmers were found at a gas station in Agawam, four more found at gas stations in Easthampton and Amherst. This problem is real.

Thieves use skimming devices anywhere you may use the magnetic strip of a credit or debit card. The state's division of standards just checked 1525 gas pumps and found 4 skimming devices. What they are telling gas stations to do is use this red security tape, if the seal is broken, someone may have broken into the gas pump.

(Does everyone have to use these seals now?)

"No, it is not the law," said Fran Connors, Compliance Officer with the state's Division of Standards.

The state inspectors also found that 147 of the 263 gas pumps they inspected did not have security tape on their pumps.

"We've gone around and also had the local sealers go around, and explain the importance of security features, a lot of people are doing the upgraded locks, they are much more secure than the tape itself," said Connors.

You used to just be able to just use your finger and feel around for a skimmer, where you put your credit or debit, now these thieves are getting more advanced, they're hiding their skimmers inside of gas pumps and don't really care if you get them back.

"They like to use blue tooth technology, so they might not have to get the skimmer if it gets hot or detected, they already have the data and they can just take off and use the data for whatever they want," said Westfield Police Detective Todd Edwards.

Here's how it works: Collectors install the skimmer and collect your credit card information.  Printers will clone credit cards with your information and a thieves name  Runners they will use those credit cards if they're not sold on the dark web first.

(Even though your card information may be getting compromised here, it doesn't mean your neighbors doing it these people are coming in from out of state most of the time.)

"They are very organized, they know exactly what they're doing they have a scheme that works, they have a target they look for," said Detective Edwards.

It's big money, in May in Federal Court in Springfield, Bogdan Mocanu was sentenced to one year and four months and inevitably deportation for stealing more than $342,000.

Here are some tips from the Department of Consumer Affairs for how to protect your banking information when your at the pump or ATM:

  • Use pumps closest to the attendant and be aware of lighting conditions. The darkest lit and furthest pump from the attendant is a thief's ideal target.
  • Pay inside and use cash when possible. Credit and debit cards account for more than half of all U.S. gasoline purchases, making it all too easy for thieves to acquire your information.
  • Check the condition of the pumps and pay attention to details. Sometimes there are slight abnormalities that you may detect. If it looks suspicious or if you spot any sign of tampering, immediately notify an attendant and make sure the police are called.
  • Look around. Some thieves use Blue Tooth technology which requires them to be within a certain distance of the pump. If a person or car seems to be lingering for too long, notify an attendant.
  • Monitor your bank account daily and check your credit card statements. Notify your bank or card issuer if anything looks unusual or if you spot fraudulent charges.

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