N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services inspectors recently conducted a month long sweep at gas stations across the state looking for credit card skimmers. Inspectors visited 972 stations in 12 counties and checked 8,567 dispensers. The inspectors found three skimming devices. The devices were found in Mecklenburg and Nash counties.
Thieves can install credit card skimmers at the pump. When a customer swipes their card to pay, the skimmer copies the account data from the magnetic stripe on the back of the card, along with the PIN if it is a debit card transaction.
“Our inspectors are at gas stations across the state inspecting gas pumps for accuracy in pricing and gallons sold, as well as fuel quality,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Card skimmers have received a lot of attention in recent months and we really wanted to see what we would find across state.”
An inspector usually can check up to four gas stations a day during a routine inspection, depending on the number of dispensers at each location. For this sweep, inspectors were only focused on card readers and were able to check 10 to 12 stations per day or up to 125 card readers.
“Unfortunately for consumers, there’s no way to tell by looking at a pump if it’s been tampered with,” Troxler added. “Through our training, we’ve learned that it takes the average thief less than 30 seconds to install a skimmer.”
The sweep had the added advantage of increasing awareness of card skimmers among gas station owners. “When we tell a store manager that we are looking for skimmers they usually ask us lots of questions about what to look for and how to help,” said Stephen Benjamin, Standards Division director.
“Our inspectors show managers pictures of skimmers and what to look for to protect themselves. If you aren’t sure what you are looking for in a machine, it could be easy to overlook a skimmer. Having store managers’ eyes on the pumps is helpful, too. We need everyone from our inspectors to store owners to be on the lookout.”
If a skimming device is found, the inspector shuts down the pump, alerts the store manager and calls local law enforcement. Checking for card skimmers will become a routine part of gas pump inspections. “We are also planning sweeps in more counties across the state,” Benjamin added.
Consumers with a concern about a gas pump can call the Standards Division at 919-707-3225. This number is also listed on the pump inspection sticker.