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Michigan inspectors find credit card skimmers inside local gas pumps
After removing a credit card from a gas pump, MDARD turns the device over to law enforcement. (WWMT/Courtesy: Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development)

Inspectors recently found credit card skimmers at several Michigan gas stations, including some in the News Channel 3 viewing area, prompting officials to remind drivers to be vigilant.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) said during a routine inspection blitz, inspectors discovered credit card skimmers inside gas pumps at the following locations:

  • Admiral, 3221 Division Ave. South, Wyoming
  • Admiral, 5342 S. Westnedge Ave., Portage
  • Sunoco, 40200 Michigan Ave., Canton
  • Admiral, 4315 Chicago Dr., Grandville
  • Mobil, 1396 Ecorse Rd., Ypsilanti
  • Sunoco, 5843 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Lansing
  • Mobil, 1500 Haslett Rd., East Lansing
  • FlexxMart, 496 Main St., Belleville

“Skimmers have been an issue for a number of years,” said Jennifer Holton, communications director for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “And so we have put that on our radar screen as something that we just look for now every single time we’re doing a pump inspection. Our staff have been trained, continue to be trained to do all that they can as part of their daily jobs.”

Skimmers, which copy credit card information of consumers, can be installed inside gas pumps in seconds.

“I’ve seen anywhere from – I think there’s a video actually online somewhere that’s like four to five seconds. It does not take long. They know what they are doing. It can be very quick,” said Holton. “And in some cases, they don’t even have to remove them once they installed them to get your credit card information. Some of them are now Bluetooth-enabled where they can use their phones or another Bluetooth-capable device in order to scan it, collect your credit card information, and go on their way.”

State officials explain how West Michiganders can protect themselves from scams at the pump after inspectors found credit card skimmers during routine investigations. (WWMT)

Because thieves install skimmers inside pumps, some gas station owners put security tape onto pumps to help indicate whether the panels have been opened.

“If there is broken security tape, obviously don’t use that pump. Go in, notify the staff, use a different pumper, or pay with your card inside,” Holton advised. “In some cases, the cutting of the security tape was so minute where a very thin razor blade may have been used, you couldn’t even see that it had been tampered with. And if you are like most people like myself, you go in, you’re getting your gas, you’re moving quick like a bunny to just get your gas and get on your way. So taking those extra steps to just take a couple of seconds, look for that security tape.”

Holton said when inspectors find a credit card skimmer, they remove the device, bag it, and turn it over to law enforcement, which works to identify the culprits. MDARD said it also works with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Consumers are also advised to keep an eye on their bank accounts.

“If you’re using a credit card, if you’re using a debit card, most of those banking institutions allow for instantaneous text alerts. And if you are on vacation, say in Florida, and you’re getting a text alert from your bank that says you’re at a gas station in Smithville, Michigan, for example, probably something’s wrong with your card and you might want to contact your financial institution,” Holton said. “And that’s really the best thing that you can do besides going and paying inside. You can always pay with cash.”

Holton said another way to be extra safe is to use pumps closer to the store.

“Lot of times, people are using – if you can use the inside pumps that are more visible in the line of sight of workers, that’s always a good one because outside pumps have the potential to be more vulnerable,” said Holton. “Doesn’t mean that they are, but the potential is there.”

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