GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Alachua County deputies say they're finding an alarming number of credit card skimmers at gas stations, particularly ones right off the interstate.
Criminals are installing them in the pumps and stealing drivers' credit and debit card numbers, deputies said.
Deputies with the Alachua County Sheriff's Office have discovered several in the past few weeks, including two in 24 hours at a gas station off Interstate 75 at the Circle K at 3509 SW Williston Road in Gainesville.
Pictures show red security tape on one of the pumps with signs of tampering. Tape that has not been tampered with or removed will be a solid red color with no speckling or damage to the color or graphics printed on it, deputies said.
Inside the locked gas pump cabinet, deputies found a skimmer connected to existing wiring. The skimmer pictured is the long piece wrapped in red rubber coating.
There is a port thieves connect to that allows them to download stored credit card information, and many can also be accessed wirelessly through Bluetooth technology, deputies said.
Lt. Brandon Kutner pulled a skimmer out of the evidence room to show News4Jax. Investigators found it at a gas station last week. The device is cheap and simple but can cause series damage to a victim's accounts.
“These are very quick to install. They snap in two locations. People can be in and out of there,” Kutner said.
The crooks use a universal key to get inside a gas station pump, unplug a cord, unplug a cable and stick the device in the middle to siphon drivers' information, including credit card numbers, debit card numbers, ZIP code and PIN numbers.
Alachua County deputies said they have discovered six skimmers since the beginning of the year.
“More than likely the people that are putting the skimmers on the pumps are not after your credit card,” Kutner said. “They are after the money that they will get selling that information to others.”
Detectives said they aren't sure how many people have been ripped off by the skimmers, but as they search for the suspects, they're telling drivers to be careful and watch their bank accounts closely.
Drivers who pay at the pump should be sure to thoroughly inspect it for signs of tampering before they swipe their cards, deputies said. If something looks odd, users should report it to the station manager.
“The best way to prevent financial fraud or identity theft is to pay inside the station, primarily with cash,” the Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post alerting the community to the scam. “Please take the time to look over the pumps before you make a purchase and report anything suspicious to the station manager immediately.”
Deputies said they're taking fingerprints and looking at the devices to try to find out who is putting them on the pumps.