• Authorities try to spot sophisticated skimmers at gas stations

    By: Allison Latos


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Authorities across the area are on alert for a new, sophisticated skimmer designed to steal customers’ money.

    The devices are so improved that people who are in charge of inspecting gas pumps may not notice them.

    Secret Service agents showed anchor Allison Latos the upgraded tool that criminals are turning to and how your cellphone could keep you from becoming a victim.

    “About twice a week there are skimmers found as gas stations,” Secret Service Special Agent Matt Hayes said.

    Hayes put local police on high alert after Colorado officials found a new criminal tool to steal credit and debit card numbers that doesn't include bulky wires.

    “(They) now (install) a card-slot reader, which is simply held in place by a few screws on the back of the gas pump door,” Hayes said.

    Inspectors may not notice it because it looks like a legitimate card reader.

    Skimmers usually emit a Bluetooth signal showing letters and numbers separated by colons, and Hayes said a cellphone could help detect a skimmer.

    “Go to settings, turn on the Bluetooth signal,” Hayes said.

    Hayes showed Latos how he checks it on his cellphone.

    “These are all the available Bluetooth signals right now. There's no generic MAC address being emitted, so I'm pretty comfortable there's not a skimming device at this gas station," Hayes said.

    Gas station owner Wayel Alsbinati said criminals posted fake security tape to his pumps in the past. Now, he's watching out for the new skimmers.

    “We have to step up and be more aggressive on what we're doing to make sure we are safe,” he said.

    Agents said checking your Bluetooth isn't a fail-safe way to protect yourself because many criminals are smart enough to change the signal name to something that looks legitimate.

    If you do spot a signal that seems suspicious, agents said to go inside to pay and ask the clerk to check it out.

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