By Wayne Gates –
Paying at the gas pump is a convenience that many of us take for granted.
However, identity thieves have found a way to get your credit or debit card information when you fill your tank.
They are called “skimmers”, computer chips inserted in the gas pumps between the credit card scanner outside and the computer chip inside.
These skimmers are inserted into the gas pumps by the thieves and then removed later with the information on them.
No skimmers have been found in Brown County as of yet. The closest one was found in Loveland earlier this month. They have also been found in northern Kentucky and Hamilton County in areas with higher populations.
The Brown County Auditor’s Office recently participated in a statewide sweep for skimmers, with every pump in the county being checked.
There are 35 gas stations in Brown County, with 20 of them offering the pay at the pump option.
In Clermont County, there are 93 gas stations where you can pay with your card.
Emily Shuemake of Sardinia said her cousin got her identity stolen at a gas pump in northern Kentucky last August.
“She in college and her parents still monitor her debit card. They saw a bunch of transactions from random towns and it turns out that she was caught by a skimmer.”
Shuemake said that she changed her gas pump habits as a result.
“I like to pay with cash now,” she said.
Tony Brockman works for the Clermont County Auditor’s Office in the Weights and Measures Division.
That office is contracted by Brown County Auditor Jill Hall to perform inspections in Brown County.
Part of his job now is to look for skimmers when he inspects gas pumps.
“I look for two things inside. I check the card reader to make sure there isn’t a second computer chip, and I check the pigtail attached to the card reader to see if there is anything strange,” Brockman said.
The goal is to get the second chip between the card reader and the data cable that sends information from the pump to the internet.
And how do thieves get into the gas pumps? Brockman said the keys that open the pump can be found for sale on the internet.
Brockman said that he hasn’t found any skimmers in the county as of yet.
“We did a sweep (Sept. 12) and didn’t find anything. We also participated in a statewide sweep two weeks ago,” he said.
Brockman said that new credit and debit cards with imbedded data chips are chip cards are safer to use at the pump.
“The chip card only sends out a three digit number. It doesn’t send out the entire 16 digit number when you swipe it,” he said. He added that the three digit number will rotate for additional security.
Brockman said one way that pump users can protect themselves is to look for security tape across the access panel on the gas pumps.
“We’ve been talking to the stations to get them to put security tape on their pumps. If that security tape is broken, it means that the pump has been tampered with.”
Brockman said that most of the skimmer activity is located along Interstates 71 and 75. He advises that anyone with concerns about gas pump security should ask the operator at the store they frequent.
He also said that anyone who pays at the pump on a regular basis should check their bank account regularly for suspicious activity.