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  • Last modified 21 days ago (June 7, 2017)

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High-tech thieves hit Florence gas pump

First card-reader skimmer found in county

News editor

Technology that only a thief could love has hit the county with the recent discovery of a credit card skimmer installed on a gas pump at Johnson’s General Store in Florence.

Skimmers are devices installed on or inside ATM machines, gas pumps, and other point-of-service card readers that steal a card’s information from its magnetic strip. Thieves then use the information to make fraudulent purchases, leaving cardholders, vendors, and banks to cope with the bills.

Skimmer thieves have been active in surrounding counties, Sheriff Robert Craft said, but this was the first skimmer found in Marion County. Cottonwood Valley Bank in Florence alerted him.

“The bank got suspicious because some of the cards were used there (at the gas station) and in a short time used in Kansas City,” Craft said. “I’ve notified the banks to pay close attention.”

Craft said the skimmer was one installed inside the pump card reader.

Todd Heitschmidt, president of Central National Bank in Marion, said bank software analyzed customer card purchases for anything that looks out of the ordinary.

“The software picks up if your card has been locally and all of a sudden is used across the country and alerts us within a 24-hour period that something doesn’t look right,” he said. “We’ll contact the customer right away and ask if they’re in New York buying bagels.”

Skimmers have been getting more sophisticated, Heitschmidt said, making them harder for consumers to detect.

Some skimmers fit over card readers, while others are inserted inside them. The technology to make them is legal and easily obtainable, Heitschmidt said.

“Today’s technology is pretty good at catching it after the fact, but unfortunately there’s no way to prevent some of it,” he said.

Grabbing a card reader on an ATM or gas pump and shaking it can detect some skimmers, Heitschmidt said. If something feels loose, that is an indication something could be wrong.

When thieves make purchases with stolen card information, financial institutions that issue the cards typically have to cover the fraud, Heitschmidt said.

“It’s a costly benefit to provide,” he said. “There are billions in losses that somebody faces, and it’s usually the issuing cardholder. We’re not going to stop it, but there is a cost to offering that convenience to our customers.”

Heitschmidt said card holders should regularly review their account activity and call their financial institution if they discover any irregularities.

Last modified June 7, 2017

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