MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One of the fastest growing areas for identity theft is happening at the gas pump.

Credit card skimmers that are installed into the gas pump allow thieves to steal your information when you fill up your vehicle.

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“It’s very worrisome because you want to feel safe doing a simple thing like putting gas in your car,” said Maria Stoica, who pays with a credit card when she fills her car with gas.

In the past, the device had to be physically removed from the pump for a criminal to retrieve the information but technology is making it easier than ever.

“They’re getting it faster, they’re getting more of it,” said Charlie Anderson, Executive Director of the Twin Cities Organized Retail Crime Association.

Thieves are now adding Bluetooth technology to skimmers meaning they can leave the device installed in the gas pump and still retrieve someone’s credit information.

“That data downloads from the skimmer to that Bluetooth device without the criminal ever having to go even on gas station property,” Anderson said. “If you look at the amount of skimmers we’ve collected over the last year, you’re looking at 150,000 identities that have been compromised through these devices. However, with Bluetooth devices, if they come every couple of days and download data, you’re looking at thousands upon thousands just from one skimmer device.”

Since March, law enforcement recovered 31 skimmers from Minnesota gas stations, two of which were found Thursday in the metro area.
Many gas stations are now using security tape to help tell if a pump has been compromised.

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“Everyone thinks the tape is a solution, it’s treating a symptom,” Anderson said.

Anderson believes the only real solution is addressing a universal locking system found on many older gas pump terminals. The old locking system uses a universal key giving criminals with that key easy access to the machines. He encourages gas stations to shift to site specific locking systems at each pump.

“What that does is ensures that their keys at that store are the only keys that can get into gas pump terminals. That’s how we stop skimming,” Anderson said.

Eddie Siouffy manages a BP in St. Paul that was the target of credit card skimming thieves. He said his store changed its security procedures adding security tape, checking the pumps each morning during opening and ordering new site specific locks. Siouffy said the new locks will be replaced next week.

“We’ll be getting the locks to ensure that no one can break in,” Siouffy said. “We just have to protect customers. You want people to feel safe shopping here,” Siouffy said.

Anderson said customers can protect themselves by asking the gas station if they use site specific locks before using a credit card at the pump.

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Check to make sure the security tape isn’t broken and cover the key pad when using a debit card.
Also, pay cash when possible.