State officials report that they have seen an increase in "skimming" devices at gas pumps in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany and Washington parishes.
The devices are used to obtain credit and debit card information.
“Our inspectors seem to be finding one or two skimmers on a weekly basis. Consumers are also alerting our office more often which helps us track down these devices,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain.
In the past month, at least 15 skimming devices were confiscated across the state. They contained approximately 4,000 credit/debit card numbers.
Strain said skimming devices used to be easily recognized when the gas pump credit card machines were opened because they were crudely put together and often had a homemade look, but the new skimmers are smaller and easier to hide. Some of the newer devices also have Bluetooth capability which allows them to transmit the financial information that they steal so the perpetrators do not have to remove the devices to obtain the information they have skimmed.
He provided the following tips for consumers.
- Whenever possible, do not use the debit card function at the gas pump. Use it as a credit card in order to protect your pin number.
- Monitor your debit/credit card activity online and contact your bank to report unrecognized charges.
- Whenever using a credit card, try to use a pump that is easily seen by gas station employees. Pumps that are less visible are commonly targeted because crooks can easily install a skimmer which normally takes very little time.
- Check the pump card reader for signs of forced entry like bent panels or broken security tape.
Once the skimming devices are analyzed, all financial institutions affected are contacted by the Secret Service.