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Key Unlocks Gas Pumps For ID Thieves

April 14, 2014, 10:10 PM by Angela Kennecke

Key Unlocks Gas Pumps For ID Thieves

Drivers who've fueled up in Rapid City are being warned that their debit and credit card numbers may have been stolen after "numerous" skimmers were found on gas pumps. 

The credit card skimmers weren't detectible; they were "inside" the pumps.  All it takes is a single key--one that opens up a majority of gas pumps all across the country.

Swipe after swipe, the most common way to pay to fill up these days can also put your bank or credit card account at risk.  Pump skimmers run between $75 and $200. 

"I've heard before about the credit card scams, where if you're at the gas station, look for something added on to the outside that looks out of the ordinary. But when I heard about the ones on the inside, it's like, how as a consumer are you supposed to know this?  And how did they get in there? Who has access to them?" April Hof said.

It turns out anybody with one of these universal keys.  A single key that makes it easier for pump inspectors and maintenance workers to access the pumps is now in the hands of thieves.  Once a pump is unlocked, thieves attach Bluetooth-skimming devices to transmit the credit card numbers of unsuspecting customers up to 100 yards away. 

Angela Kennecke: Do you think it could happen in Sioux Falls though, just as easy as Rapid City?
Dave Grelvos: Oh yeah, absolutely.  The biggest city in the state.  There's no question, but we're ready for them.

Gas station owner Dave Grevlos says BP warned him about this problem on the coasts three years ago, and he's been checking his pumps daily ever since.

"All my people are trained to look for something that is out of place and there is not a lot of stuff in there that you can hide those skimmers in.  I'm very confident we're keeping up on it and if they do get one in, it's only going to be a matter of hours before they find it and the problem is stopped," Grevlos said.

Now there are just one or two of these universal keys that fit every gas pump in the station.  It would cost owners about $1,000 per service station to change the locks at the pump.  But Grevlos says that wouldn't take care of the problem. 

"It's not the expense. I'm thinking we'd be kind of complacent. We're trusting the fact that no one can get in there. I'd rather know for a fact, with our own eyes every morning, looking in there to know nobody's been in our pumps," Grevlos said. 

So far, nobody has been--but station owners know there could be, any time now.

How do you protect yourself?  Check your credit card statement regularly and try not to use your debit card; that could leave your bank account drained.  If you are really concerned, you can pay inside the station.

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