Erie County arms itself with new technology to fight against credit card scammers

Posted at 4:35 PM, Oct 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-02 10:53:20-04

A 2017 survey by Total System Services, a credit card processing company, reported that 77% of Americans prefer using card over cash.

What that means is there's a higher chance of experiencing credit card fraud, especially a method called skimming.

"They are able ot receive your data as you scan it. They can take an encoding device and a magnetic strip and make an exact duplicate of your credit card in seconds," Greg Reusch, the Deputy County Sealer, said.

All a thief needs is for you to swipe or insert your card like any regular transaction, and they can steal your information with a small device called a skimmer.

"There were five skimmers that were put in area gas stations we believe in early July," Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive, said.

Those gas stations were in Tonawanda, Amherst, Depew, and Clarence. 

Experts say thieves target gas pumps because they are easy to tamper with. It only takes about 10 seconds to install a skimmer.

"What the bad guys do, is within eight seconds, they can unscrew these screws unclip a clip here and clip, clip an illegal device in between," Reusch said.

Old skimmers required the theifs to return to the pump to retrieve the device and get the information off it. Now, scammers can use a wireless signal to receive the credit card information. 

“The criminal receives the data from the skimmer that's actually placed on the pump. They can be near by and using blue tooth technology or a cellphone. They don’t even have to go in and retake the information off the skimmer," Reusch said.

Now Erie County is fighting back against credit card scammers. It has just invested in a device that will make it easier to detect skimmers.

"Drive through a station in seconds and this thing will notify me if there are any controversial, unknown, or know problem signals," Reusch said.

It uses bluetooth technology to discover the illegal device.

"We think we are going to be able to do every gas pump in the county minimum once a month, and were looking at probably two times a month," he said.

The department of Weights and Measures will be in charge of checking the pumps. Reusch said that if his department really wanted to, they could check all the Erie County gas stations in about two days.

“This is sufficient to cover the county within a two day, two and a half day period."

However, its difficult to identify pumps with skimmers since the devices are all internal. You can check for broken seals. Although, experts say a broken seal or no seal is not indicative of a tampered pump.

Those same experts also say that if you are a victim of credit card fraud, you need to contact your bank first and then local authorities.



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