State officials announced today (Thursday) that the number of credit card skimmers found on fuel pumps across North Carolina is up dramatically this year. Of all 100 counties across the state, more skimmers have been found in Johnston County this year than any other county. And the majority of those skimmers have been found in Selma. State officials believe criminals are specifically targeting Johnston County to steal credit card information from unsuspecting victims.
Skimmers are devices placed between the credit card reader machine and computer board. The skimmers steal your credit card numbers and PIN information. Some skimming devices store your stolen information until the scammers return and removes the skimmer. Newer devices, call “blue skimmers”, can wirelessly transmit your stolen card data to a laptop computer in a car parked nearby. With blue skimmers, thieves instantly have your stolen card information. The newer blue skimmers were the ones recently located in Selma.
The NC Department of Agriculture’s Consumer Services Standards Division is in charge of inspecting gas pumps. In a press conference this afternoon (Thursday) at the Eagles Gas Station in Raleigh, NCDA Measurement Section Manager Chad Parker said 37 card skimmers were found statewide by NCDA staff during routine fuel pump inspections in all of 2018. In the first quarter of 2019, 23 skimmers have been found. Of the 23, 11 were found at fuel pumps in Johnston County, including 7 on fuel pumps at one Selma convenience store.
“Throughout the first quarter our inspectors found a few skimmers in the Johnston county area,” Parker said. “This lead us to perform a skimmer sweep throughout the whole county. We found a total of 11 skimmers at various locations. On return visits we found that some of the same stores were hit a second time after we already removed the first device.”
Parker added this has raised an alarm with state inspectors. “Of course this is concerning. This leads me to believe that someone is or at least was actively working this area. We have completed our sweep and now our inspector is returning to these stores for his annual inspections.”
Selma Police Chief Billy Thomas said the 7 skimmers found in his jurisdiction had all been placed on fuel pumps at the Zippy Express, formerly known as Fiddle Stix, a convenience store at 25 JR Road just off I-95. Five skimmers were found on March 6th. When police did a follow up at the business on March 19, two new skimmers were located.
Authorities said it is difficult, if not impossible, for the average person to know if a skimmer has been placed on a fuel pump.
Always check the card reader access panel door to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with. Most stores now place tamper seals over the doors. If the seal has been broken, notify the store clerk.
Officials say whenever possible use your credit card instead of a debit card. That way if your card is skimmed, the thief will only have your zip code information and not your PIN number.
Some stores are updating their card readers with new a chip system that scrambles your information.
If you want to be really safe, pay for your fuel inside the store instead of at the pump. It’s rare for card skimmers to be placed on credit card machines inside businesses. And to really be safe, pay with cash.
In March, Smithfield Police Detective Ronald Johnson identified three suspects from Florida who had placed credit card skimmers on fuel pumps across multiple states along the I-95 corridor. Warrants have been obtained for their arrests.
Because Johnston County seems to be a target for thieves working to steal your credit card data, state and local authorities encourage the public to report any suspicious activity around fuel pumps, including an possible tampering.