TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) – Tuscaloosa authorities are warning residents to be wary of credit card skimmers possibly being placed on gas station pumps along Interstate 59/20.
The Tuscaloosa Police Department posted about the danger on their Facebook page Friday. TPD says they are aware of the threat and that their criminal investigations division has checked gas stations along the interstate and surrounding area. They have not found any skimmers currently in use.
TPD says they believe that the offenders purposely target gas stations along interstates. The offenders place the devices on pumps, move on to the next exit and then return to the location after some time. This makes it less likely that incriminating video surveillance can be found. They then use the victim’s credit card information to make fraudulent purchases.
TPD spokesperson Stephanie Taylor says there are many different methods to check if there is a skimmer on a card reader.
“You can check and see if there’s space between the card reader and the underlying panel,” Taylor says. “Since it’s placed over the existing pump, it may stick out at a strange angle. Look around at the other pumps and see if the card reader or PIN pad look any different.”
A person may also notice an obstruction or a lot of “wiggle room” when inserting their card, which Taylor warns could be the sign of a skimmer. Physically touching and moving the panel can also test to see if there has been tampering with the device.
“Is the tape smooth or does it look like it’s been ripped or torn? Does the panel seem like it’s not securely attached to the pump?” Taylor said. “You can also pull on it a little. A real credit card reader will stay firmly attached to the pump but a skimmer will pop right out.”
Taylor advises avoiding using the PIN pad if you have the option of choosing credit instead of debit. Travelers are advised to routinely check their bank statements after paying at the pump.
To report any unusual or fraudulent activity happening in Tuscaloosa, you are asked to contact TPD at 205-349-2121. The Federal Trade Commission also has information on its website on how to report and recover from identity theft.