RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina is issuing an alert about hidden devices in gas pumps that can steal your information.
They can make your bank accounts vulnerable to hackers after seeing the numbers of card skimmers jump significantly since the start of the year.
One of the best ways skimmers are being detected in North Carolina is the result of the Department of Agriculture inspectors who regularly look inside pumps.
It only takes a second to swipe your card and it only takes a second more for a skimmer to steal your card info.
In the last year, state inspectors have seen a huge increase in the number of card skimming devices.
“We’ve doubled our numbers so far,” said Chad Parker, who is the standards division measurement section manager for the state agriculture department.
In 2018, state inspectors discovered 37 skimmers statewide.
This year, in the first quarter alone, they’ve already found 23 skimmers.
Right now, Johnston County is being hit hard by crooks planting skimmers in gas pumps.
“We found 15 skimmers in various different Johnston County locations and some of the locations got hit twice,” said Parker. “After we removed the first device, the crooks placed in another device.”
One place that seemed to be a favorite of the crooks is the DY Express store at 25 JR Road in Selma.
The agriculture department says there were a total of seven skimmers found at that store between two inspections – five found on March 6 and another two found March 19.
In the past, experts advised people to pay inside and not at the pump to avoid getting card information stolen.
A lot of folks find that inconvenient so, if you do use your card at the pump Parker says you should never use the debit function.
“One thing I always do is run my transaction as a credit transaction,” said Parker. “That way it asks for my zip code, instead if my PIN. I would much rather the crooks get my zip code than my PIN.
Some gas station chains like Eagles are also becoming proactive.
COO David Smudski says his company is changing the locks on its gas pumps so they aren’t accessible with a universal key.
He also said station personnel must now check the pumps on a regular basis.
Parker says other retailers need to follow that lead.
“If the store would take the simple act of changing the locks and re-keying, the crooks can’t get into the pump and go elsewhere,” he said.
The state agriculture department also offers a training program for gas station personnel to teach them how to detect skimmers as well as how to safeguard their pumps.