Scammers invading gas pumps to steal card info

Haleyville Police Chief Rodney Lewis shows three Skimmers that have already been removed from gas pumps in the city

HALEYVILLE - Those who pay at the pump when buying gasoline are being urged to use extreme caution and pay either in cash or the clerk inside the store, due to an ongoing scam. Law enforcement are sending out strong warnings across the county and area, due to an ongoing scam, where devices are being installed in the credit or debit card reading devices within gas pumps, resulting in theft of card numbers. This has resulted in victims receiving unauthorized purchases in their bank accounts, police have confirmed. “I have not seen this in my 16 years in law enforcement,” pointed out Haleyville Police Chief Rodney Lewis. So far, the scams appeared to be centered in the Haleyville area, where devices were installed in one gas pump at each of three local convenience stores, Lewis said. However, over 200 customers, who have used debit or credit cards at the pumps to purchase gas at these stores, have been affected, warned Chief Lewis. “We gained knowledge on March 30, at one of local service stations, that one of the pumps had one of the credit card skimmers located in it,” Chief Lewis. And, yes, scammers and placing the devices known as skimmers into the card reading portion of gas pumps to retrieve information from debit or credit cards that are used. The third skimmer was removed from a gas station pump early on Friday, April 8, according to police. Victims have reported unauthorized purchases on their cards from convenience stores in Lakeland, Florida and Nashville, Tennessee, with the largest unauthorized purchase so far per customer being $198, police said. One local company had been notified of a possible incident at one of their gas pumps, so service personnel were sent to the pumps, discovering the skimmer inside the pump, Chief Lewis explained. The scammers are actually opening the pumps, unplugging the interior card reader machine and instead plugging in the skimmer device then closing the pump, police said. “The public is not going to know these are here,” Chief Lewis pointed out. When asked how the scammers were opening the machines, Chief Lewis noted that older machines can be opened without sending an alert or shutting down the pumps. “The newer machines will shut the pump down,” Chief Lewis. “None of the pumps that have been tampered with are new enough to send a notification.” Some of the illegal devices store information being recorded at the pumps from credit or debit cards, while other devices are Bluetooth, which will be stored until the criminal can return, sit within range of that device and upload all the card information onto their cell phone, Chief Lewis said. “There are no 24-hour stores, but we do have service stations that do have 24-hour pay-at-the-pump,” Lewis stated. Once the scammers take the information from the credit or debit card devices within pumps, they can use those numbers for purchases, police are warning. “We have talked to some of the local banks and basically verified that this has happened,” Lewis said. “All of the fraudulent transactions that have taken place have been out of state, that I’m aware of.” Chief Lewis stressed to the public that local residents are going to social media to bash local convenience stores and gas stations over the incidents. “These stations in town are victims as the individual is, because they have no way of knowing this is there,” the chief stressed. Customers who use debit or credit cards at the pumps can continue to do so, but at their own risk, during the current scam, police are warning. “I’d say, if you are going to use your card, walk in the store and use it inside. Don’t use it at the pumps,” Lewis urged. “The businesses are probably affected more than the individual because the word gets out this was at their station,” Lewis continued. So far, skimmers have been removed from gas pumps at three locations in Haleyville and are in the possession of the police department. Each of the affected stations had one skimmer inside a gas pump, police said. “As far as we know, these are the only three that were in town,” Lewis said. “I can’t find where it is in any other city around us or county,” he noted. “That doesn’t mean it’s not there.” Lewis believes the card or personal card information being retrieved from gas pumps is being downloaded to a group. “I am not going to say it’s not somebody local,” the chief said. “I am going to say there’s a big group of it. It’s going to be several people involved in this.” Charges against the person or persons responsible for this scam include fraudulent use of a credit card, according to police. “If they are signing a ticket, then they are forging somebody’s signature. If we look it up, there are going to be several different criminal charges,” the chief said. Warnings have been sent out, not only on the city of Haleyville’s but Haleyville Police Department Facebook pages. Contact has also been made to the Winston County Sheriff’s office, State Bureau of Investigation, Winston/Marion District Attorney’s Office and police chiefs throughout Winston County as well as Bear Creek in Marion County, Lewis said. The case is current a joint effort of the Haleyville Police Department, Winston County Sheriff’s Office, Winston County DA’s office and SBI. Those who suspect any form of criminal activity are urged to contact the Haleyville Police Department at 205-486-5201. “This is something we can’t have happening,” Chief Lewis stressed.

See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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