MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If you’ve ever had your credit card information compromised, it may have happened as you were filling your tank.

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Commerce announced a major crackdown on credit card skimming at the gas pump. Statewide inspections will soon take place to help stop the problem.

Thieves can install the skimmers both externally or internally from gas pumps. Bottom line: You buy gas, and won’t know that your credit card information has been stolen until those fraudulent charges show up on your statement.

Most of us pull out the plastic to pay for gas, but what you may not know is that thieves may have installed a credit card skimmer on your pump, just inside where customers normally swipe their card.

“Within that is the blue tooth technology where it can be transmitted the information to a laptop that is sitting in a car that is right nearby,” Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said

Rothman announced that state inspectors will start checking Minnesota’s 52,000 gas pumps not just for pump accuracy, but for credit card skimmers.

Authorities say an external skimmer may look like an extra piece attached to pump’s credit card slot.

“You can try and jiggle it and see if it doesn’t look right,” Rothman said. “If it’s not right, you should let people know.”

Skimmers can also be installed internally. Many stations now put a small piece of tape on the outside of pumps. If the tape is broken, that means someone may have installed or tried to install an internal skimmer. In January, new anti-skimming software alerted employees at a Bobby & Steve’s in Bloomington to three men trying to install hidden skimmers. Kip Studaker, Operatons Leader at Bobby & Steve’s said,

“As soon as they got it open and disconnected our credit card processor to connect their’s, it sent us an audible alert and it shut down the pump so nothing else could happen,” Bobby & Steve’s operations leader Kip Studaker said.

Those three men, who were from Kentucky, were arrested.

To protect themselves, consumers can: first check their credit card statements.

  • Check credit card statements
  • Check the pump for broken tape or an odd-looking credit card reader
  • To be extra safe, pay inside

The Commerce Commissioner says the department does not know how widespread the problem is, but state inspectors just began checking for skimmers this week, and found two on the first day.

Esme Murphy