Thieves are siphoning credit card and debit data. Here’s how to spot their skimmers.

How to avoid being skimmed while paying for gas

No one wants their credit card information "skimmed" when paying at the pump. Here are a few tips and tricks from the Texas Agriculture Department to avoid becoming a victim of credit card thieves while fueling up!
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No one wants their credit card information "skimmed" when paying at the pump. Here are a few tips and tricks from the Texas Agriculture Department to avoid becoming a victim of credit card thieves while fueling up!

Consider yourselves warned.

Thieves are busy installing credit card skimmers at gas pumps or ATMs to capture information from consumers’ credit and debit cards.

Police in Haltom City are looking for a man they believe put a skimmer on an ATM inside a 7-Eleven Convenience Store on Airport Freeway.

“Please be vigilant when using your card, even at trusted locations,” Haltom City Police wrote Tuesday on Facebook, noting that the skimming device at this ATM has been removed. “If something seems wrong, let someone know.”

This is the latest warning from local, state and federal officials drawing attention to the devices that can capture between 30 and 100 card images a day, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.

Thieves take the information gained and use it to print fake credit or debit cards.

Even the U.S. Secret Service weighed in on skimmers this month.

“Credit card fraud is a federal offense, carrying stiff penalties including heavy fines and lengthy prison sentences,” according to a Secret Service statement.

Since Jan. 1, 2017, 34 complaints about skimmers at Tarrant County gas stations have been filed with the Texas Agriculture Department — and countless more with local law enforcement agencies.

“This is pretty much organized crime,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has told the Star-Telegram. “We’ve found them just about all over the state.”

Tarrant complaints

Among the suspected local locations for skimmers: a Quick Way on South Collins in Arlington, Tommy’s on Highway 377 in Benbrook, a Murphy Oil on Texas 121 in Bedford, a Valero on East Harwood in Euless, 7-Eleven stores in Grapevine, Keller, Arlington and Fort Worth, and a Valero gas station on Bryant Irvin Road in Fort Worth, state records show.

Last year, skimmers were found at four pumps at Hawk’s Pantry #8 on W. Randol Mill Road in Arlington. Five complaints had been made about skimmers there since last June. One came as recently as earlier this month, state reports show.

Skimmer Complaints in Tarrant County

This map shows gas stations with skimmer complaints in Tarrant County made to the Texas Agriculture Department between Jan. 1, 2017 and July 16. Markers colored in red indicate multiple complaints. Click on markers for more details.

But agriculture department officials don’t always find the devices by the time they arrive.

“Most people don’t complain about possibly getting skimmed until long after they pump gas and they see something suspicious on a bank statement,” said Mark Loeffler, a department spokesman. “A number of things can happen between (the) complaint and TDA looking for the skimmer.”

Local law enforcers may have found and removed the devices. And sometimes, the people who put them on the machines come back and remove them themselves.

Safety tips

Law enforcers offer a variety of tips to keep people safe from skimmers at gas pumps.

Among them:

Use only the newest gas pumps. Older ones are easier to open, which makes them more vulnerable to having skimmers installed inside.

Look for damage to the credit card reader or see if it’s loose. Report problems to workers. If a dispenser door has security tape that looks broken or tampered with, report that to a store employee as well.

Pay cash inside, use mobile pay or use your credit card. Officials say they’d rather consumers use anything other than debit cards to safeguard bank accounts. And monitor bank accounts for any suspicious activity.

Use the pumps closest to the store. And before filling up, check your phone to see if a lot of numbers are trying to connect to Bluetooth. That’s a giveaway there might be problems because some of those devices need Bluetooth signals to gain data from the skimmers.

Officials recommend everyone get a receipt after filling up. That will help you know which station to contact if there’s a problem.

And anyone who finds problems should call the Agriculture Department at 1-800-835-5832 as soon as possible.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley