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Look out! New card skimmer threat reaches Texas

Hollywood Park Police found a card skimmer that hides in plain view.

HOLLYWOOD PARK, Texas — Hollywood Park Police found a new kind of credit car skimmer at the Circle K gas station on 250 N Loop 1604 East. Or, at least, it's new to Texas. 

The skimmer actually replaces the existing credit card receiver on the gas pump machine. The skimmer is make with a face-plate from an existing name brand card reader and in order to look authentic. 

Officers said if you use pump #15, you should check your credit card statement.

"The skimmer we collected is self-powered and self-contained in a single piece that replaces the credit card receptacle," Hollywood Park police said on Facebook. "We believe thieves can now just remove that one piece without opening the housing of the pump and replace it with that homemade device. That collects your credit card info. It has Bluetooth capabilities as well as its own small battery to maintain the memory of the stolen information."

The device was spray painted to match the pump but was still easily scratch-able. While this is harder for the consumer to spot, Texas Financial Crimes Intelligence Center Director Adam Colby said there are some easy ways to check for it.

"Those things are screwed in and should not be moving. It if moves you might have one." Colby said," This is the rare case where you could actually wiggle a card reader."

If the reader moves at all, that's a red flag. Additionally, thieves won't typically be able to replace multiple card readers at a station so if the card reader on your pump looks different than the others, that's also a red flag. 

Hollywood Park police also suggested consumers use pumps that are closer to the store or that have video surveillance as thieves typically target pumps that conceal them while they switch out their device. 

Colby also told KENS 5 consumers should use the tap-to-pay option when possible. 

"Really the best thing you can do is use tap-to-pay because you are not exposing your magnetic stripe. They're going after the information on the mag stripe. It you don't swipe the card it's your safest bet," Colby said.

Additionally, don't think that having a card with a chip will protect you from card skimmers. The original pump infrastructure will still read the chip for the transaction, but the skimmer is simultaneously reading the mag strip and storing your card's information: The card number, the name on the card, and the expiration date.

Colby said the skimmers that go outside the pump housing are not new technology and they have already been used in Florida and California. They are now appearing in Texas near the I-10 and I-35 corridors. 

"It's not new. It's just new to Texas," Colby said. 

Colby said he is also seeing more sophisticated skimmers arriving in Texas which can be inserted into existing card-reading devices or even overlay the button pads.  

If a consumer is every hacked by one of these skimmers, Colby said the victim needs to make a police report right away. The consumer's bank is not obligated to make a police report even after they process a case for fraudulent charges. The police report will also help the consumers case if the bank is on the fence about reimbursement. 

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