TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It is a way to steal from thousands of people before they even know it happened.
Sophisticated cyber bandits plant devices to steal your credit and debit card numbers then sit back and harvest that dangerous data by remote control.
The Scam Tracker from the Better Business Bureau shows how rip off artists are always growing. It even gives you a way to share you own warnings about scams attempted against you.
So far, inspectors from the Weights and Measures Division of the Arizona Department of Agriculture have found at least 84 skimmers planted in gas pumps around Arizona---many more than previous years--- and more are turning up all the time.
KGUN9 talked a careful consumer who still got caught. She wants to help you avoid getting scammed by a skimmer.
Fill up at the wrong pump and thieves can drain your bank account.
Lisa Noyce checked her account and saw somebody went someplace she never goes and rang up 250 dollars on her credit card.
“It's terrible because you go in there and you're missing 250 bucks or for some people probably more or less even in smaller increments; it just depends on how they hit you."
She saw the fraud right away because she's the sort of careful consumer who checks her accounts each day. And she knew the theft happened about the same time two stores where she gasses up posted warnings they had found skimmers.
A and M Shell on Speedway is not where Lisa Noyce got skimmed, but owner Arnoldo Mendez Junior is on constant guard against electronic thieves in his pumps.
He knows thieves just need a few seconds to install a secret transmitter. They've hit his pumps twice.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith said, “You want to take care of your customers. This must be kind of painful.”
Mendez says, “It is painful; because our customers are like our friends. We have a lot of loyalty and to think that their credit might be compromised is enough of an incentive to be proactive to avoid this from happening."
Crooks know most pumps open with a standard key. Mendez changed the locks. They still got in. He's looking for tougher locks.
Now he opens every pump, every day to check for skimmers.
He says, “Just two years ago we spent about 12 thousand dollars to make these debit ready, these card readers debit ready but I'm advising not to use debit at the pumps because the last thing you want is someone to have a pin number available to them from a skimmer."
Soon unmanned gas pumps will have an additional safety feature: the same sort of chip-card scanner now common at many in-person check-outs. Chip cards can be harder for skimmer thieves to clone because they add a one time code or "token" to each transaction that can change with each transaction. That way the skimmer will capture a code that will be useless when he or she tries to use the card number without the chip that came with it.
Debit cards are more dangerous than credit because they tap into your full bank account and credit cards offer better loss protection.
Sgt. Rick Radinsky of the Tucson Police Fraud Prevention Division recommends that you choose a pump with security features like tamper resistant stickers. Check bank statements often and notify your financial institution as soon as you see any questionable charges. Report any suspicious activity at a pump to a store employee.
Tim Strasser, the operations manager for Vantage West Credit Union says modern phone apps make it even easier to quickly check your accounts for bogus transactions. He recommends avoiding any unmanned terminal that shows marks or scratches that suggest it was forced open.
Because Lisa Noyce watches her accounts just as police recommend she was able to cancel her old card right away but it was still scary and inconvenient.
And from now on, she'll feel more secure handing her card to a clerk.
"At this point, for me, I don't think I'll ever pay at the pump again. I think I'll always go inside."