Some Northeast Texas law enforcement agencies are noticing criminals are using more sophisticated — and harder-to-detect — measures to skim credit and debit card account information from transactions at gas pumps at convenience stores.
The culprits use skimming devices hidden inside the electronics of the gas pumps and are undetectable by customers and even store attendants, according to a warning Kilgore police posted on their Facebook page earlier this week.
The culprits pry open the locks to enter the pumps and insert the devices, which can transmit account information through wireless Bluetooth technology, Kilgore Assistant Police Chief Roman Roberson said.
In the past, the culprits placed skimmers inside the card readers of the machines, according to authorities.
Now, “They are harder to detect,” Roberson said. “We don’t know when they are doing it.”
Roberson said the culprits do not have to return in a few days to retrieve the devices, unlike in the past when they inserted skimmers inside the readers.
The Kilgore police Facebook post said some credit card or debit card data was compromised a week ago, adding a “big wave of skimmers” has been found on area pumps. Kilgore police recovered skimmers at a convenience store on South Henderson Boulevard.
An increase of skimming has occurred in East Texas, Longview Police Lt. Shane McCarter said.
“We have had an increase,” McCarter said. “The detectives are locating those (devices). We’ve got to find the pumps that have the skimmers in them.”
Roberson said some big stores have installed alarms on pumps to detect tampering, but he and McCarter acknowledged few convenience stores might be installing the alarms because of their costs.
Catching the culprits has been elusive, too. A Smith County grand jury in September indicted two people on charges stemming from their role in placing skimmers on gas pumps.
Leidy de La Guardia and Jorge Rondon-Martinez each were indicted on one charge of engaging in organized criminal activity and one charge of unlawful interception, use or disclosure of wire, oral or electronic communication, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported. They were arrested in Cancun, Mexico, and returned to Tyler to face prosecution.
Both Roberson and McCarter recommended people monitor activity on debit and credit card accounts, which they can do daily online.
“A lot of people have discovered (compromised accounts) quickly,” Roberson said.
Kilgore police also suggested paying for gas inside convenience stores, if a customer fears skimming.
Authorities also said it is also a good idea to save receipts.