ELGIN, Texas (KXAN) — It should be common at this point for everyone to be checking their gas pump for anything that looks suspicious. Elgin police want you to have a reminder that criminals looking to take advantage of you are out there.
In the span of the last week, three credit card skimmers were found on the pumps at a 7-Eleven in the 200 block of U.S. Highway 290.
You should get in the habit of checking for a red sticker across the front of a gas pump before you use it. It will be located near where you swipe you card. If the red sticker is missing, or “VOID” is visible, that means the likelihood of the pump being tampered with is higher.
If you ever see something that looks suspicious on a gas pump, you need to tell a staff member, and definitely do not swipe your card.
The Elgin Police chief says the state needs stiffer penalties to deter credit card skimmers.
“We’re talking lower level felonies for identity theft rather than you’re going away to prison for the rest of your life. And if it’s my identity that’s being stolen, I’d just as soon they go away forever. But that’s just the way most people feel about it,” Chief Chris Bratton said.
KXAN spoke with the victim of another case last year, who says he’s frustrated with the lack of arrests. Rob Aldridge and his wife felt the punch at the pump in Round Rock.
“It just instantly gave me a pit in my stomach and the full feeling of being victimized and violated came over me,” Aldridge said. More than a year later, we learned Cedar Park police still haven’t caught those responsible. It was in Cedar Park the criminals used a copy of Aldridge’s wife’s credit card.
“More action needs to be taken to catch these guys,” he said.
Bratton explained the challenges that come with solving this type of crime.
“There’s very little that we can do. If we have no video and it’s 2-3 days later before these are found then there have been several hundred, maybe 1,000 cars that have been gassing up at this station – there’s almost no way to know who’s stopping and inserting the equipment into the pump,” he said. “Usually when we catch ’em it’s by accident. We get them on some other case or a traffic stop and find the equipment in the car.”
Bratton advises drivers to be especially cautious using older pumps that are more vulnerable to tampering.
“The new pumps, they’re working on technology to defeat this type of thing,” he said.
Also, make sure there is a seal with a bar code from the Texas Department of Agriculture on the pump. If there isn’t a bar code, he says there’s a chance a skimmer is present.
In Austin, someone who noticed tamper-proof tape and other required stickers missing at the 7-Eleven on North Mopac and Duvall called police last Thursday afternoon to report it.
When an inspector got there he found a skimmer connected to the card reader and keypad. His department had inspected the pumps at the station just two hours earlier.
If you suspect there’s an issue with a card reader, contact the Texas Department of Agriculture.