Protect yourself: $1 billion stolen annually by criminals using card skimmers

Protect yourself: $1 billion stolen annually by criminals using card skimmers
Check out tips on NBC12 on how to avoid skimmers. (Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The U.S. Secret Service estimates $1 billion is stolen every year by criminals using card skimmers - that's $350,000 EVERY DAY.

In Virginia earlier this month, an Alexandria man pleaded guilty to installing skimmers on ATMs in Colonial Heights, allowing him to steal $1.2 million.

But the issue isn't just at ATMs - it's also at gas stations.

There are several things you should do every time you drive up to the pump to make sure your money doesn't end up in someone else's hands.

The easiest thing to do is jiggle the card reader.

If it feels loose, it's possible that a criminal has installed a skimmer that sits right inside, stealing your card information. These scammers often use a temporary glue or two-sided tape to attach the devices, so you'll know right away if something doesn't feel right.

Next, check the seals around the card reader.

If those seals are broken, it means someone has been messing with the inside of the pump, possibly installing a skimmer that you'd never notice!

If you spot any of those issues when you pull up to the pump, don't insert your card! Move to a different pump - the pump you pick matters.

AVOID going to a pump that's not visible to employees in the store. If a scammer is out of sight, they've got more time to install a skimmer without anyone noticing.

Always try and choose a pump that's right near the door, because it's more likely that the attendant will have noticed someone opening a gas pump in their line of sight.

Even though thieves are using technology against you...there's a simple way you can fight back and not become a victim.

This is an easy trick, but it's worth your time to make sure your money and personal information is not stolen...and it's all in the palm of your hand!

Pull out your cell phone after you pull up to a pump. Most skimming devices use Bluetooth transmissions to send your card information to the criminals.

So before you start pumping gas, turn on your phone's Bluetooth and scan for devices. If you notice any suspicious signals near you, it is possible you're seeing a skimming device - Do NOT swipe your card!

If you have an Android phone, there's an app called Skimmer Scanner that works to detect skimmer transmissions - allowing you to know where to avoid swiping your card.

Right now, there isn't an app like that for iPhone, but a simple scan for Bluetooth devices should give you an idea of any suspicious activity at the pump.

One more thing: use a credit card when buying gas instead of a debt card. The credit card offers you more protection against fraud, and you won't be giving thieves access to your bank account.

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