Credit and debit card skimming: Look out for fraudulent readers at gas stations

A new report says the hottest place for card skimming scams is the local gas station

An increasing number of gas stations around the country (and their patrons) are falling prey to a skimming scam crooks are pulling to steal credit and debit card numbers.

Skimmers are devices that steal card information which are placed over what look like otherwise standard card readers. Criminals often also capture PIN data and then create dummy cards in order to drain a victim's account. The funds are often not taken until several months later making the time of the actual scam difficult to pinpoint.

See our slideshow to learn how to recognize the telltale signs of ATM skimming

A report on Consumer Reports.com says banks have reported a sharp rise skimming at gas stations where scammers are tampering with pumps, installing skimmers and then using Bluetooth devices to read the card data.

"They can simply park near a station where they've tampered with a pump and then download the stolen data onto a laptop," the report claims.

The report cites an analyst at Gartner Research who believes the upswing is the result of more organized criminal gangs from Eastern Europe that are coming to the U.S. to set up skimming operations. Rings have been reported in both Florida and Arizona. Arizona officials have gone as far as to order state inspectors to conduct inspections of gas pumps to detect and remove the devices.

According to the Secret Service, skimming is responsible for about $350,000 of monetary losses each day in the United States and is considered to be the number one ATM-related crime. Trade group Global ATM Security Alliance estimates that skimming costs the U.S.-banking industry about $60 million a year.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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