Do you know what a skimmer is?

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Even though we are all hard-working people, it has definitely come to my attention that some people don’t want to work and they are just trying to steal from those who do. That is evidenced by the many scams that are going on in our country at this time.
In the past, I have talked about the telephone scam involving the IRS. The caller says you owe money and you must pay right away. The last one I had, said we owed more than $6,000 and if we didn’t wire the money to their special number immediately, the police would be coming to our door to put handcuffs on us and take us to jail. The man I was talking to on the phone had a very heavy East Indian accent and it was really hard for me to keep a straight face and voice as I talked to him. I kept going to get his whole spiel, so that I could write about it. Of course I knew none of it was real.
I have recently spent some time in the Naples, Florida area, which is close to Fort Myers. While watching the Fort Myers television stations it became clear that skimmers are quite a problem in that area, too. You may remember that skimmers were used in central Ohio gas stations to steal money in the last few years, but not in as many as the 600 that have been removed from gas pumps in Fort Myers and Naples in the last few months.
Here’s how these things work as far as I understand it. A device is placed inside the gas pump near the card reader and electronically the numbers are stolen from your card as you insert it to pay for gas. The numbers then go to a far distant area, perhaps as far as outside the country where they are gathered and re-sold to people to use for their own stealing purposes.
On the TV broadcasts, they showed that an official tape is placed on the sides of the pumps after they have been examined by law-enforcement. The tape is to show that everything is OK there, but then the reporter showed how it could be removed. The skimmer is then inserted and the thief puts the tape back so no one can tell. So, what good is that technique?
Apparently some skimmers are even made to look like legitimate devices that are supposed to be inside the gas pump and they are not spotted readily.
Now I come to my story, which began last week. I went to the station where we usually go for gas because it’s a good price. There are also only four pumps and they’re very close to the office, where you would go in to pay, if you were doing so. That was a recommendation from the TV station. Make sure the pumps are visible by the people who are working inside.
Since I was operating on this advice, I actually thought … there’s no skimmer here. Oh, how wrong I was. Three days later calls began to come from the fraud unit of our credit card company. I was asked if three different charges were ours, and no they weren’t. It appears that the thieves tried to use the card at the same gas station that I used, and it was refused (probably because you have to put the ZIP Code in at the pump and they didn’t know what it was).
After that, they moved on to another gas station, where they charged over $100, possibly buying gas cards. Now you know, if someone needed $100 for gas to get to work or take their family to a doctor and they didn’t have the money, I might be inclined to just give it to them. But to steal it from the credit card company and me is so absolutely ugly.
Once we notified our credit card by phone that these were not legitimate charges, they removed them from our account, so there will be no repercussions for us. Oh that’s so inconvenient because then I didn’t have that card since it was deactivated. They agreed to expedite delivery of the new card and I had it in just three days.
So it was such an insult that they could steal my number and now stick the credit card company with the debt.
The best advice I have seen about dealing with skimmers in central Ohio or anywhere else, for that matter, is go inside to pay for your gas. Whether you put it on a card ahead of time or pre-pay with cash, that is the safest thing to do. It’s a bit inconvenient, but so was this tampering with my credit card. Oh, then there’s the other drawback – we have been told that sometimes the clerks inside are working with the skimmer people and might steal your credit card information anyway.
Can’t we trust anybody these days?
Of course, going back to all cash is an option, but make sure you get a receipt!
(Melanie Behrens – melb@marysvillejt.com)



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