CENTRALIA, Wash. — Officials found two credit card skimmers installed this week at a Centralia gas station, adding to the number of data stealing machines found in similar locations around Western Washington in the past few months.
The skimmers were found by a state inspector Tuesday at a service station in the 1200 block of Mellen Street, Centralia police said. Three have been found in Lewis County since December.
Skimmers fit into ATMs or gas station card readers and collect credit card information and PINs from unsuspecting users. Criminals use the stolen data to buy things online.
They can be installed in 30 seconds, Centralia police said, and are sometimes difficult to detect. Once crooks installed their credit card skimmers, they wait for victims to drive to them.
“Skimmers have gotten so good, it’s hard to tell they’re there,” patrol officer Angie Humphry said.
David Mills, the Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge of the Secret Service in Seattle, said there’s been an uptick in credit card skimmers found at gas stations — and gas stations in the Puget Sound. In November, police removed two credit card skimming devices from a gas station in Port Orchard.
“We have several active cases in the Puget Sound,” Mills said.
Crooks may be moving away from ATMs and onto gas pumps as preferred skimming locations because many ATMs now have chip readers installed — making the skimming process harder. Gas pumps are still a bit behind the times.
"Gas pumps are sill using mag strips," Mills said.
Drivers at gas pumps are encouraged to look at the card reader closely before filling up. Also, use pumps closest to the counter, as crooks are least likely to put the skimmers there, Mills said.
Some apps are available to predict credit card skimmers, but there is no foolproof way to spot skimmers.