February 23 2016

Police Warn Credit/Debit Card Skimmers Found at Gas Stations in Surrounding Communities

By: Rich Hosford

Police are warning residents and owners of gas stations to be on the lookout for a new trend in high tech theft. 


According to reports criminals have been placing credit/debit card skimmers in gas pumps that allow them to get the information from anyone who uses their card at the station to pay at the pumps. 


Detective Jim Tigges of the Burlington Police Department said that so far none of these illegally-placed scanners have been found in any Burlington gas stations but they have been found in neighboring communities, including Bedford, Woburn, Chelmsford and Acton. There has also been a rash of them in northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. 


He said the way they work is that they are placed inside the gas pumps so that they cannot be seen. When someone uses a debit or credit card the skimmer downloads all the information off the card. Unlike in the past the machines can even pick up debit card pin numbers, eliminating the need for a camera installed elsewhere to pick up people punching in their numbers. 


Tigges said the thieves target both big chain stations as well as privately owned ones. 


The department is taking steps to combat the possibility of such devises being used in Burlington. 


“Right now we hand delivered notices to every gas station in Burlington about the issue and asked them to check their card readers daily,” Det. Tigges said. “We also ask that they look out for suspicious persons.


The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation suggests the following steps to avoid skimming: 


• Use pumps closest to the attendants and be aware of lighting conditions. The darkest, furthest pump is a thief’s ideal target.


• Check the condition of the pumps and pay attention to details. Sometimes there are slight abnormalities that you may detect. These might include a broken seal or piece of tape put on the pump to indicate someone has opened it up. 


• Look around. Some thieves use blue tooth technology which requires them to be within a certain distance of the pump. If a person or car seems to be lingering for too long notify an attendant.


Tigges said there is only one sure-fire way to ensure your card won’t be illegally read at the pump: pay in cash. 


“Yeah, we’re back to that now,” he said. 

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