SAPD: Crooks now hiding credit card skimmers inside gas pumps

Police find device at NW side gas station

SAN ANTONIO – Thieves have found a new way to get their hands on people’s credit card information, and it’s one victims will never see coming.

San Antonio police said someone hid a credit card skimmer inside a gas pump on the city’s Northwest Side.

"For the consumer driving up to the gas pump to fill up their vehicle, you're just not going to know that there's a skimmer on the device,” said Lt. Marcus Booth, with SAPD’s financial crimes division.

According to a police report, a worker found the device last Friday while performing maintenance on a gas pump at an Exxon station at Bandera Road and Loop 1604.

The report stated that the manager of the business told police he believes the skimmer had to have been put into place only recently.

Last fall, SAPD had issued warnings about a type of “false front” credit card skimmer that had been found attached to the outside of some bank ATMs. The devices fit over the slot where customers would insert their debit or credit cards and had the ability to read and retain their account information. In some cases, the criminals had also attached tiny cameras to the machines to capture bank PINs as they were being entered.

As a way to detect the presence of those skimmers, police had advised people to tug on the outside of the slot before they insert their cards, because the devices often had been attached with tape.

Now, it appears the efforts of the crooks are not only more sinister, but more sophisticated. The new skimmer hidden inside the gas pump had the ability to record data for up to three to four days, and was operated remotely with Bluetooth technology, police said.

“Your transactions occur as normal but the data will be retained,” Booth said. “Later on, these people can drive up and either Bluetooth or physically remove the device and collect the data."

Sgt. Paul Castillon with the department’s forgery unit added that this type of crime may not even be realized by its victims right away. He said it could be days or even months before they find out they’ve been targeted.

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"They'll be able to use that credit card information to make purchases later on," Castillon said. "Cash is always a good option. That way you don't have to worry about the data."

Castillon said with the ever-present threat, it is best to be vigilant. He recommends that people carefully monitor their bank and credit card accounts, and cover up when entering a PIN at the ATM or gas pump.

Although this is one of the first times police have found a skimmer hidden inside a gas pump locally. They said it has been happening across the country.

Police advise anyone whose account information is compromised to notify their bank or credit company, and report it to law enforcement. The number for SAPD is 210-207-7273.

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