Devices designed to steal customers’ credit card information have been found installed inside gas pumps at three different area convenience store locations, including the City of Amsterdam and Village of Fonda. According to a press release issued by Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort yesterday, the devices were undetectable from the outside, and were wired directly into each pump’s circuitry.
According to the release, the county’s Department of Weights & Measures was contacted by WEX Fleet Card Fraud Department earlier this month in regards to strange activity related to a convenience store in Amsterdam. Three skimming devices were found, processed by the Amsterdam Police Department and then sent to a New York State laboratory for possible DNA testing.
Last week, Department of Weights and Measures Director Raymond J. Borst came across a convenience store in Fonda, where all six gas pumps had been altered. The FBI was contacted and later that morning was at the scene, taking pictures and removing the skimmers as evidence.
In the release, Ossenfort said, “The County is following the proper protocol and working with the FBI and New York State to remove these devices and help keep people’s personal information protected. The Department of Weights & Measures from both Montgomery and Fulton counties are working together to combat this issue and we are working diligently to increase routine checks for this type of nefarious activity.”
Amsterdam Police Chief Greg Culick said the discovery of these devices represented a significant “step up” in methods used by criminals to steal credit card information. Culick added that someone must have defeated each pump’s lock in order to install the devices inside.
“It’s a whole new level of crime that we never had to deal with really in this area. But the professional criminals are bringing it to us. So it’s a new thing our community is going to have to look for,” said Culick.
According to Culick, external card skimmers are relatively easy to detect as they are usually attached using double-sided tape or other similar method. Culick suggested a customer can discover a criminal’s device by jiggling the card reader to see how well it’s attached.
He said one possible way to detect an internal device is to check on a cell phone for available Bluetooth connections, looking for a connection identified with a long string of numbers. Culick said in some cases, criminals use a Bluetooth connection to transfer the data from the device.
Culick urged area residents to be cautious, and to report any unusual activity around gas pumps, and to pay inside the gas station if anything about the pump looks suspicious.
So far, officials have not yet identified the targeted convenience stores.