How to check for skimmers at gas stations

Better Call 4

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — “We don’t want people to have their information taken advantage of,” said Franklin County Auditor Michael Stinziano.

That’s why he and the Division of Weights and Measures perform a yearly skimmer sweep.

“We go out to about 25% of our gas stations, looking to see if people have skimmers out there,” said Stinziano.

Here’s how they work: When a customer swipes their credit or debit card, the devices capture information from the card’s magnetic strip, and the criminals use the stolen data to their advantage. Stinziano said fuel pumps are prime targets because they’re constantly used and easily accessible.

“So, people are able to go out, by this equipment, hook it in, and take advantage of unsuspecting customers, unfortunately,” said Stinziano.

Better Call 4 went with the auditor to check for skimmers at a Marathon station in northeast Columbus.

“Some of the things to look for, is just if the devices have been messed with,” said Stinziano. “So, you can see where there’s been scratches or different impacts. That’s really the biggest tell-tale sign.”
Some other warning signs to look for:

  • If something seems off. The next time you’re filling up, look around. See if the card reader at your pump matches the others.
  • Also, if the safety seal is broken.

“The sticker is the big affirmation that if you do see the Franklin County Auditor’s Weights and Measures sticker, it has been out, it has been certified,” said Stinziano.

You can also take a few precautions, like:

  • Using highly visible pumps, within view of the clerk.
  • Checking your bank statements regularly for fraudulent charges.
  • Paying inside.
  • And contacting law enforcement or the auditor’s office if you have any suspicions.

“Customers are great boots on the ground, letting us know that they may think something is wrong,” said Stinziano.

The auditor’s office tells me that no skimmers were found during the sweep of three area gas stations, which happened just before Memorial Day.

Overall, since Stinziano took office in 2019, he says no skimmers have been found during annual sweeps. Stinziano attributes that to this initiative, and to more stations updating their card-reading technology.

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