Several agencies are warning consumers about a financial theft trend that’s on the rise.
It’s called skimming, and it’s when thieves place devices on machines such as gas pumps to steal your credit card information.
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, the Minnesota Department of Commerce and several other local and federal law enforcement agencies say consumers need to be aware of the scam, which can lead to identity theft.
“To protect consumers, Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Weights and Measures inspectors are on the lookout for skimmers during their regular inspections of gas pumps for accuracy, safety and fuel quality,” Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman said in a news release. “Consumers can protect their money by being aware of signs of tampering and reporting suspicious activity to the station and the Commerce Department.”
The BBB, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the FBI and FTC, the Apple Valley Police Department and the Brooklyn Park Police Department say consumers should:
1. Wiggle the machine.
Skimming devices are typically false panels attached to the credit card reader, according to a news release. Look closely at the debit and credit terminals to see if anything looks damaged or unusual, or if there are any strange cameras or signage. Walk away if something doesn’t seem or feel right.
2. Pay inside or pay with cash.
When at the gas pump, either pay the attendant inside the station or pay with cash. This will greatly reduce your risk of credit card fraud, though cash is even safer, the agencies say.
3. If you see something, say something.
Alert the gas station attendant if anything seems suspicious, particularly if someone opens a pump and doesn’t look like an inspector or gas station employee. You can also call the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Weights and Measures Division at 651-539-1555.
4. Watch your statements with vigilance.
Read all your bank and card statements closely. Keep an eye on the itemized breakdown of monthly charges. If anything is suspicious or fraudulent, report it immediately.
5. If you’re a victim, a number of resources are available.
You can go to IdentityTheft.gov. Report identity theft here at this website. You can also use the site to create a plan to recover from the incident. You can also lean on the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, www.ic3.gov/. Any victims can also file complaints with the FTC at ftc.gov or by calling 877-FTC-HELP.