Travis Co. Sheriff's Office says don't pay at the pump to avoid card-skimmers

- "The credit card skimming has become such a problem in Travis County that I'm encouraging everybody to not use the credit cards at the gas pump, I mean the safest way to avoid having your credit card skimmed is to go inside the store," said Captain Craig Smith with the Travis County Sheriff's Office on Monday.

Paul Hardin, President of the Texas Food & Fuel Association says skimmer-installation is typically happening overnight when stores are closed.

"A lot of times they'll have what's called a blocker.  It will be a van or something that will kind of block the view of the camera.  Boom, they get in, they do it and they're out," Hardin said.

As far as what customers can do, Hardin said jiggle the card reader to make sure there's no overlay there.

Also make sure the security seal tape isn't broken.

"What we tell our members is just check it every day.  Check each pump every day for signs of damage," he said. 

Captain Smith said criminals are now using Bluetooth technology.  He suggests customers use their cell phones to check for skimmers at the pump.

"If you see an odd Bluetooth device showing up on your cell phone, chances are there's a skimmer somewhere close," Smith said.

That's advice Hardin doesn't necessarily agree with.

"There's so many Bluetooth signals coming within a 20 to 30-foot range and not everyone's car is labeled 'Fred's Car' or 'Fred's iPhone' or whatever it may be," Hardin said.  

He said the false positives are becoming a big problem at stores across the state.

"Consumers are calling local law enforcement.  Law enforcement shows up, shuts the pump down.  Store owner/operator has to contract a service company to come out and prove to law enforcement that there is not a skimmer in there," Hardin said.

Wayne Fueling Systems is a global company based in Austin.  They've been designing gas station equipment for 126 years.

Now they build state of the art terminals designed to read the card chip instead of the mag-stripe.

"The typical skimming devices that we see currently are made for the older card readers out there that are typically protruding so our new technology makes it harder to apply those devices to the payment terminal," said Annika Birkler, senior product manager with Wayne Fueling Systems.

Birkler said if someone does try to tamper with the terminal, the system will shut down.

"It will actually say 'breach' and we actually have a symbol here that shows the status of the card reader so 'green' it's ok, if it's not green you need to have an authorized service technician," she said.

Birkler says if pumps don't have chip-reading technology by 2020, the merchant is liable for the cost of potential fraud.  

"We've done this in Europe for more than a decade.  So we've seen that the skimming on stations actually decreases significantly with this kind of solution," Birkler said.  
 

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