LEMOORE — In an effort to protect citizens, the Lemoore Police Department is helping local gas stations fend against card skimming devices.

Officer Brett Ward said he’s been working with local gas stations to educate owners, managers and employees about how to prevent their business -- and customers -- from becoming victims. Criminals can conceal skimming devices at gas pumps to capture credit card and bank card information. The stolen information can be used to make fraudulent charges

“It’s about protecting the consumers and protecting the community from identity theft and monetary loss,” Ward said.

Ward said Lemoore police recently launched the program in response to several skimming devices recovered from local gas stations over the past year. So far, the most eager participant has been the Chevron station at 19 1/2 Avenue and Bush Street.

Debbie Galante, manager at the Chevron station, said the business has not yet found any skimming devices at any of its pumps, but working with the police department has helped to quell customers’ fears.

“People do ask about it,” Galante said. “We assure them that we inspect our pumps daily and that we’re working with Lemoore PD to ensure our site stays safe.”

Ward said skimming devices are pretty obvious if you know what to look for. Criminals typically open the pump and splice the skimmer onto the back of the card reader.

“What they'll do is they'll unplug the ribbon from the back of the reader here and they'll plug in their own piece,” Ward said. “They'll basically tap in their wires here, and they'll have some type of computer circuit board taped on.”

Ward said skimming devices are usually installed next to the card reader. However, police recommend that gas station staff remove all access panels from a pump when they inspect for skimmers.

Skimming has become a growing concern for local law enforcement.

In December, the Hanford Police Department identified two suspects who had been using cloned bank cards at area stores. Police said the suspects likely cloned the cards using information obtained from a skimming device.

Hanford police found one of the devices in January at the Mobil gas station at Grangeville Boulevard and 10th Avenue. Police said the device was discovered after a customer told the store manager that one of the pump panels looked like it had been opened.

Lt. George Hernandez said Hanford police haven’t seen any other skimming-related cases. He said both cases remain under investigation, although detectives have few leads to go on, Hernandez said

Glenn Clabeaux, a maintenance technician at the Chevron station, said the station uses multiple strips of security tape on its pumps. The tape provides visual cues if a pump has been tampered with.

“If you open the door, you have to break several pieces of tape,” Clabeaux said.

A damaged piece of security tape doesn’t necessarily mean the pump has been tampered with. Clabeaux said the tape used at his station will show “void” any time someone peels it off a pump and tries to put it back.

Clabeaux doesn’t like to take any chances. Anytime he sees a broken seal, he’ll check for skimmers.

Ward said police can only inspect pumps with limited frequency. He said educating station staff ensures the pumps can be inspected daily.

“Now that they've been trained and are able to recognize it, if they find tape that's been cut, he doesn't have to call me,” Ward said. “He can open up the pump and look. It may have just been somebody playing while they're here pumping gas.”

Clabeaux said he still calls the police department if he sees something particularly suspicious. A couple weeks ago, he found four gas pumps with the tape cut.

“When something that obvious happens, four pumps cut all at once, something is going on,” Clabeaux said.

Clabeaux said the incident turned out to be a false alarm. No skimming devices were found in the affected pumps. 

The reporter can be reached at 583-2458 or meiman@HanfordSentinel.com.

 

Load comments