Steamboat police warn of suspicious pay-at-the-pump activity
The Steamboat Springs Police Department warns consumers to stay alert for suspicious devices when they pay-at-the-pump. The caution comes after several reports of fraud linked to pay-at-the-pump transactions at local gas stations, according to a news release from the city of Steamboat Springs.
About 1:42 p.m. Sept. 27, an employee at Ski Haus Conoco, located at 1450 S. Lincoln Avenue, alerted police to a suspicious incident captured on video surveillance. The recording, from about 5:40 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26 shows three males accessing the interior panel of the pump and removing a device. A check of transactions at the pump does not indicate any suspicious activity. The circumstance of the incident, however, is consistent with the use of a skimming device.
In another case, a customer made a pay-at-the-pump transaction at the Southside Station, 905 Weiss Drive, on Sunday, Sept. 25. The account holder received a fraud alert from the card issuer for three suspicious charges made within 24 hours of the fuel purchase.
Skimming devices read the information stored on the magnetic strip while the card passes through an attached device. Depending on the financial institution, the magnetic strip generally contains all the information displayed on the card, as well as additional information about the account. The stolen information is often used in criminal activities. The skimming device can be attached directly over the card reader for the machine or concealed within the gas pump panel. It is nearly impossible to detect by users.
Skimming devices are often paired with a tiny camera to detect the PIN or zip code associated to the card. While no camera was located in this incident, it is good practice to try to conceal PINs or zip codes while entering these numbers on the keypad.
The most effective way to guard against fraud is through close monitoring of account activity, Steamboat Springs Police Department Commander Annette Dopplick said in the release. She encourages customers to take advantage of their institutions’ early-warning alerts and offers the following guidance.
• When possible, account holders should use the same ATM and gas pumps, so they become familiar with the appearance of the card reader.
• Skimmers often disrupt the smooth entry/exit of the card. If the card action seems jerky or uneven, notify the vendor and treat the transaction as suspicious.
• Inspect the card reader and the area near the PIN pad for any suspicious devices or tampered-with equipment.
• If using a debit card, attempt to conceal the PIN or zip code from visual detection by covering the keypad with your hand as you enter it.
• Use gas pumps and ATMs that are in plain view of passersby and surveillance cameras.
• Look at other nearby gas pumps or ATM card readers to see if they match being used.
• Inspect ATMs for uneven colors or loose PIN pads, and tug on the card slot before insertion.
• Avoid gas pumps at which the tamper-safe security seal affixed to the pump has been broken.
Anyone with information regarding this suspicious activity is asked to contact the police department at 970-879-1144.
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