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Fraud involving gas skimming devices ongoing problem in Charlotte

Thieves are trying to steal debit card information as you pay at the pump. These tips can protect your personal information.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Skimming crimes have gotten more sophisticated in recent years since these attacks became popular in the early 2000s. 

Thanks to advanced technology, we're now seeing thieves make digital copies of debit cards and then spending real money they steal from their victims. One recent example occurred at the Circle K at the Arboretum in south Charlotte. 

An employee told WCNC Charlotte any issues with their pumps were fixed by Thursday. According to the FBI, crimes involving skimming cause over $1 billion in financial hits to banks and consumers every year. Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep up, the decades-old fraud keeps finding its way into our area. 

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In addition to the Circle K, a woman on Nextdoor posted a warning for others to be on the lookout for gas skimmers on their fuel pumps. Criminals continue to put these devices on ATMs and fuel pumps because people are often too busy to notice something unusual. 

"Not only are scammers a problem but cameras are sometimes installed so that the bad guys can capture the keystrokes and get the card's PIN," Tom Siegler, the former vice president of a company that manufactures payment devices, said. "That's kind of a holy grail for these bad guys." 

READ MORE: Card skimmers found on 3 Charlotte ATMs, police say

Siegler said there are two types of gas skimmers. One where the card goes into the slot and one that sits on top and outside of the reader. 

"Those two devices operate the same way," Siegler said. "When the card is inserted and removed, it reads the magnetic stripe and captures that data so that the bad guys can pull it down."

Siegler added that both devices have come a long way, so it's a good idea to keep a watchful eye. 

"Used to be that the bad guys I used to call them, have to revisit the pump and remove the skimmer and grab the data," he said. "Now with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, they just have to drive in and suck the data from the device where it's stored."

The Better Business Bureau advises giving the device a little wiggle to see if it's fake. 

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The FBI suggests that when using a fuel pump, choose one closer to the store and in direct view of the attendant because they're less likely to be targeted. Also, run your debit card as a credit card or pay inside at the counter. 

AAA also suggests to use a contactless credit card. Many fuel pumps now have this technology where the driver can tap their card on the reader, rather than inserting it.

If you do become a victim, the FBI says you should call your bank immediately as well as the police. 

Jane Monreal: Contact Jane Monreal at jmonreal@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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