Consumer Investigation: Gas Skimming

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – Officials say there’s an increase in gas skimming across the state. Because of new technology, scammers seem to be getting away with it.

Gas skimming is when someone inserts a device at the gas pump to steal your credit or debit card information. State officials say scammers originally targeted the main interstates across the Louisiana, including I-10, I-12 and I-49. But now they’re popping up in inner cities as well, according to Louisiana Department of Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain

“There seem to be thee major cartels that seem to be involved in that and they seem to be out of state,” Strain said.

Strain said in the last month they’ve found more than 20 devices. Each device is capable of stealing more than a million dollars.

“I’ve actually checked for that at a few gas stations. I’ve pulled the credit card machine areas just to make sure I’m getting what the company has. I’m not getting a secondhand thing put on,” Phillip Bolotte said, a Lafayette resident.

Now instead of placing a device on the outside, scammers are going inside, using Bluetooth devices to steal information, so folks swiping their card won’t have a clue.

“They are in and out of the cabinet in under three minutes. Quickly. The original devices you had to go back and retrieve them. The new devices use Bluetooth. They never have to go back to the cabinet,” Strain said.

Strain says oftentimes scammers will use a truck or a van to block the view of the station attendant, as well as any security cameras. They’ll also likely target the outermost pumps, the ones furthest away from the teller.

“It’s a little disturbing when you know somebody else can take your information and use it or use you in a way to make money without it being legal,” Bolotte said.

So what can you do to protect your money? Strain says for one thing, don’t use your debit card.

“Don’t do it because if they get your PIN number and your bank account number, they can clean your account out,” Strain said.

Instead he says use a credit card or pay with cash, check the pump for any signs of forced entry, use the pump closest to the teller and check your bank statement every month for abnormalities.

State officials along with the secret service are on the case, investigating pumps statewide, with hopes of stomping out gas skimmers for good.

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