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How to detect a credit card cloner at the gas pump

The piece of the skimming device that captures your credit card info.

The piece of the skimming device that captures your credit card info.

A couple months ago, a night shift employee with Bobby and Steve’s Auto World in Bloomington watched out the window, unamused, as three sketchy dudes in a janky white van pulled up at a gas pump and started messing with it. 

One man used an industry standard key to open up the pump. He took out the credit card machine and started to mess with the wiring inside, trying to install a credit card cloning device. When Bobby and Steve's security system triggered a shutdown of the pump, the men jumped back in the van and sped away before the clerk could stop them.

Brent Peterson, store leader of the Bloomington franchise, credits the same employee for dialing the cops as soon as he saw the white van return a couple nights later. Bloomington Police pulled up and caught the three men red-handed — a rare arrest for a crime often committed out of sight of cameras.

Later, cops raided their hotel room, finding gadgets they were using to clone credit cards that were swiped at gas pumps throughout the Twin Cities.

Turns out the three are originally from Kentucky, and were snooping around Minnesota as part of a road-trip crime spree.

Credit card skimming devices are descending on Minnesota. At first glance it’s pretty much impossible to tell if a gas pump, ATM, or Red Box has been tampered with. From the outside, skimmers can camouflage easily with the rest of the machine, looking like another piece of hardware that’s safe to slide a card into.

A super-stealthy credit card skimming device.

A super-stealthy credit card skimming device.

On the inside of the device is a noodley little cable that secretly records all your important numbers. They’ve been found in Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Bloomington, and Eagan. Cops and the state department of commerce are working around the clock now to inspect gas pumps and bind them with industrial-strength security tape that’ll leave a “VOID” pattern if some nimble-fingered fraudster tries to peel it off. 

But average folks can get a knack for spotting them too, especially if your local gas station doesn't have this fancy tape yet. 

Sometimes, a sloppily installed skimming device posing as the lip of a credit card reader will have gobs of glue around it. It could wiggle and come off in your hand.

And since skimmers have to plant them on the fly, they’ll usually only install one or two in a multiple-pump gas station. The one that looks bulkier than the others in any way, or has some sort of inessential additional appendage, is probably the one that’s going to steal your identity.