HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Credit card skimmers can be hard to spot and can be detrimental to your bank account. The Huntsville Police Department confirmed one was found at a busy gas station just this week.
The skimmer was found at the Citgo gas station on Highway 72 East. "What happens is if left unattended the bad guys come along and a put a small magnetic strip in there. Sometimes they are only two inches long. All they are doing is reading that magnetic strip on the back of your card," Cyber Security Expert Shane Hammett said.
Hammett said most skimmers come from overseas and get shipped to the United States. "I've personally seen them come out of larger cities because the foreign countries transport to the larger cities," Hammett explained.
Hammett said the bad guys have gotten even smarter and target places where a lot of people come through. "In some cases, you will have drive-bys. I noticed a trend several years running in Alabama that skimmers were more prevalent right before spring break, near the beach because you have more traffic," Hammett said.
He said using the chip feature on your card has helped, but said if the person is savvy they know how to disrupt the chip. "Then forcing you into using the skimmer version of that. You are going to see a lot more in the wild. Gas pumps are the most notorious place because 9 times out of 10 they are unattended," Hammett explained.
He said using machines that are visited on a regular basis by a technician is the best way not to fall victim. "That is the responsibility of the technician to go in and review their systems to make sure they haven't been tampered with. A lot of stations will put the tamper-proof sticker on there," Hammett said.
HPD said a maintenance worker at the Citgo gas station spotted the skimmer Tuesday.
Police said they didn't inspect every machine, based on the word of the Citgo employees. An investigator plans to review surveillance video to determine who could have placed the skimmer.