How can you protect yourself from credit card skimmers? - FOX29 Lake Charles

How can you protect yourself from credit card skimmers?

How can you protect yourself from credit card skimmers?

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(Source: KPLC) (Source: KPLC)
CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) -

Imagine having your credit card information stolen when you least expect it - while pumping gas.

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) is seeing an increase in credit card skimming devices at gasoline pumps. It's a small device that crooks use to steal your credit card information.

The skimmers have been found all across the state, including here in Southwest Louisiana.

Two have been found in Vinton and two were found in Lake Charles. 

The gas stations have not been named, as they are currently under investigation. 

Several people who KPLC's Candy Rodriguez spoke with said they never think about skimmers. 

"I never think to look for that," said Terrilyn Garner

"Well, it worries me," said Tracy Tyler "But it's not something I spend time thinking about."

"I just pump and go," Tyus Jones said.

“Unfortunately, thieves are always looking for ways to stay one step ahead of authorities. Our inspectors continue to look for anything suspect and we remind convenience store employees to stay alert and try to monitor what is actually taking place at a gas pump,” said Commissioner Mike Strain. “Ask yourself, is it someone purchasing gasoline or someone manipulating the cabinet on the pump? As for the consumer, if you do not pay cash, we urge you to be vigilant in monitoring your credit card statements weekly, if not daily, for unauthorized purchases.”

"The safest thing to do is, if it looks like it's been tampered with, go to another pump - move to another side," said Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso. The sheriff's office will respond to a call about gas station skimmers but ultimately, LDAF's Weights and Measures Department has jurisdiction. 

And that's where inspectors like Teri Berken come in. Berken and others are searching for devices the department said are ever-evolving - some are easily recognized and have a "homemade" look to them, but new skimmers are smaller and easier to hide. 

And some devices even have Bluetooth capability, which allows the crooks to transmit your financial information.

Tony Khan, Valero store manager, said he stays vigilant of his pumps. 

"I tell all my cashiers to keep your eyes on the pumps outside and the register here and keep watching what they are doing," he said. 

Khan makes sure to keep his cameras going 24/7.

"It's good to be vigilant so you can stop and prevent that."

His Valero store on the corner of Ernest Street and W. Prien Lake Road was inspected by Berken and no skimmers were found. 

But some consumers said they avoid the problem altogether by taking a few extra steps... literally. 

"I always go inside," said Azlyn Erickson. "I'm a lazy person but not when it comes to my information. You can monitor what's going on in there; you can't monitor what's going on in there."

And others just stick to what they know. 

"Cash," said Andrew Hartman, Jr.  "They can't skim cash."

Some tips to protect your personal information from LDAF:

  • Whenever possible, do not use the debit card function at the gas pump. Use it as a credit card in order to protect your pin number.
  • Monitor your debit/credit card activity online and contact your bank to report unrecognized charges.
  • Whenever using a credit card, try to use a pump that is easily seen by gas station employees. Pumps that are less visible are commonly targeted because crooks can easily install a skimmer which normally takes very little time.
  • Check the pump card reader for signs of forced entry like bent panels or broken security tape.

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