Next time you stop to pump gas, you may want to think long and hard about how you will pay for it.
Thieves have figured out a new and improved way to steal your bank information using the old gas pump skimmer scheme. The old method of shaking the ATM card slot won't cut it anymore, because thieves are getting inside the gas pump panel.
Rukiya Droste pumped gas last week at a BP gas station on Abercorn Street and Tibet Avenue in Savannah.
"It was normal. Nothing suspicious. I got my gas and I left," she said. Droste had just moved to Savannah in December from Texas, but had heard of gas pump skimming.
Just 48 hours after she pumped gas last week, her husband called to tell her someone was trying to use their debit card.
"There were three separate charges. Each about $100 from the Atlanta area. My bank was good enough to catch it but had they not I would have been charged $800," Droste told WTOC.
Her mother and another family member, also got hit by the same type of fraud, just down the road, at the Kroger gas station.
The Droste family, almost victims of gas pump skimmers, .but of a new breed.
"These are more sophisticated. They manufacture a door. Looks just like the credit card reader door on the gas pump. A lot of the master keys to these gas pumps, they fit all the pumps. So all they have to do is get a copy of the master key and that will allow them access to open the door tor to the gas pump where the credit card reader is. Then they replace it with their door that they manufactured themselves," Detective Ray Woodberry, Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department Financial Crimes Unit, told WTOC.
It's a wireless door which reads all your banking information and the only people who would know it doesn't belong is the company itself who owns the pump.
Woodberry said a culprit, or culprits, could do it alone at night or a have a partner during the day to cause a distraction. It only takes 30 seconds and the thieves can start collecting debit card numbers with no warning signs to consumers.
"You can't tell it's there and it transmits the information via Bluetooth to the bad guys who are probably across the street collecting the numbers," he said.
Managers at the gas stations were made aware and apologetic, according to Droste. BP's manager told WTOC they check the credit card readers every morning and promised to make sure it wouldn't happen again.
Droste is still going to take extra precautions.
"I will definitely be taking the time to go inside and pay. I was told by the bank that is the only way to protect yourself to pay at the register rather than at the pump," she said.
If this happens to you, immediately file a report with police and contact the financial crimes unit.
The best thing to do to protect yourself, is to use cash. If you do use credit or debit cards, then pay inside.
If you have to pay outside, use credit if you have the option. Credit cards have more safeguards and less loss protection. But with a debit card, once you punch in the PIN, you just gave the thieves access to your checking, savings, which could easily be wiped out.