- Chris Stewart Staff Writer
More than half of the 80-plus credit card skimmers found in the state’s gas pumps during the last three years turned up in southwest Ohio, including four discovered this summer in Montgomery County and one in Greene County.
An initiative to prevent the crime and reduce the chances of consumers becoming victim to credit card and identity theft was launched Friday by the Montgomery County Auditor’s Office, which includes a new website to help stop skimmers.
“This is a serious crime. It’s a difficult crime for all of us to deal with,” said Karl Keith, Montgomery County auditor. “Not only is the consumer a victim, but the gas station owners and operators are victims of this crime as well.”
The electronic devices can read credit and debit card numbers as well as PIN numbers for the purpose of identity theft. They often have Bluetooth capability, allowing identity thieves to access the private data from up to 100 yards away.
Keith recognized several managers of area gas stations that have taken steps to prevent the crime, including installing site-specific locks on pumps, improved surveillance systems and sensors that set off an audible alarm while disabling a pump not properly opened.
Keith said about two-thirds of the county’s 5,000 pumps at 200 gas stations still have locks that open with a universal keys purchased for as little as $3 online.
Vik Rutherford, the owner of Phillipsburg Fuel, said he wasn’t aware that almost anyone bent on the crime could open a pump with a universal key – until a skimmer was found at his station in September.
“It affected my business as well, (customers) were leery about coming in because of that.”
Rutherford said he spent about $300 to replace the universal locks with site-specific locks – four on each of three pumps.
“I didn’t waste a minute,” he said.