A device that steals credit card information was found on a gas pump at the Marathon Gas convenience store on U.S. 421 West on Wednesday, according to a Wilkesboro police report.

It was a credit card skimmer, a device that reads the magnetic stripe on a credit or debit card when inserted into a card reader on an ATM, gas pump or other device. The skimmer stores the card number, expiration date and cardholder’s name and this information is used for making counterfeit credit, unauthorized purchases by phone or computer and for identity theft for all sorts of dark purposes.

An inspector with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reported finding the credit card skimmer while inspecting the pumps. It was behind the locked door of the pump and there were no signs of forced entry.

A clerk at the store said someone complained to him about a week earlier about receiving an unknown out of state charge after getting gas at the station.

Credit card skimming can also occur when malware is injected into a shopping payment page to steal credit card information. To combat this, stick to one or two retailers that already have your data. Use antivirus software. Regularly check bank and credit card statements.

The website, creditcards.com, has advice for detecting the more traditional credit card skimmers on a gas pumps or ATMs.

Before sliding a credit card at a fuel pump or ATM you often use, notice if the keyboard or card reader has a different appearance because a 3-D printer can be used to create a bogus keyboard placed on top of the real one. Wires sticking out also is a warning sign.

Criminals must open the fuel dispenser door to insert the skimmer. A tape with a serial number is often placed across the dispenser door for security, so check to see if the tape is broken. If there’s no tape, check to see if the dispenser door looks as though was forced open. There were no security stickers on the pump involved in the Wilkesboro police case to indicate if tampering had occurred

A loose ATM card reader may indicate a bogus card reader placed on top of the existing one.

Some victims of credit card skimming say the card reader where the crime occurred didn’t easily accept the card or felt different in some other way.

Avoid fuel pumps and ATMs out of sight of the store clerk and ATMs in areas with little traffic. Criminals are drawn to machines they can more easily tamper with. Non-bank ATMs, such as those in supermarket parking lots, account for a large share of compromised devices. Security is tighter at ATMs at banks, including with cameras.

If you use a debit card, run it as a credit card without using the PIN. If you must use the PIN, cover your hand when typing the number, in case hidden cameras are watching.

Use your hand to cover views of the screen when you enter your debit card PIN to avoid having it photographed.

Chip credit cards are designed to be safer than magnetic stripe cards, encrypting payment information so it’s not so easy to steal. They can offer another layer of security, but they aren’t iron-clad.

A free Skimmer Scanner Android app released in 2017 scans for available Bluetooth connections looking for a device with a certain title that may indicate a skimmer.

Set up fraud alerts on your credit cards. Nearly every issuer offers these, and many will email and/or text you when your card is used at a gas station. Check your credit card and debit card transactions frequently to make sure no fraudulent activity has occurred.

If a credit card is used rather than a debit card, the bank’s money is at stake and it is protected by the card’s zero-liability policy. A stolen debit card number usually yields worse damage.

Of course, just pay inside rather than at the pump.

Lastly, pay with cash as often as possible.

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