Police: Use caution when paying with plastic at the pump

Police: Use caution when paying with plastic at the pump
(Source: WAFF)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Huntsville police officers have a PSA for everyone: if you pay with plastic at the pump, use caution.

Lt. Michael Johnson told WAFF 48 News the devices have created a small increase in criminal case reports for theft recently, which have mainly been found at local gas pumps. The criminals that use "skimmers" leave a digital finger print behind, and the Tennessee Valley Regional Computer Forensics Lab helps HPD investigators crack the cases.

"Some victims don't even realize they're a victim of that gas pump until days or sometimes weeks later, when they victim comes forward or to their banks and realizes 'I didn't make these charges,'" Johnson said. "We've had a couple victims come forward thinking they had some identity theft going on. It all went back to gas stations where they'd bought gas. That was the common thread."


Johnson doesn't recommend trying to avoid a certain gas station because he said it can happen at any and all of them. Instead, he wants people to learn best practices for paying with plastic.

First and foremost: ditch the debit card and pay with a credit card.

"When these devices are installed, the PIN number is being captured electronically and sent back to criminal, along with the debit card information," Johnson said. "That's what's critical, that PIN number."

He said all of the recent victims used debit cards, not credit.

Another tip: if you have a choice, opt for the newer-looking pump.

"It is some of the gas stations that use older pumps. The newer ones are a little more sophisticated and harder for the criminal to get these devices installed. The newer ones are a lot safer," he said.

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