Home Local News Credit card scammers hit pump in Lovington

Credit card scammers hit pump in Lovington

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If you have used the diesel pumps at the Shamrock on North Main Street in Lovington, the Lovington Police Department is warning watch your credit card bill.

Lovington Police report company personnel found two credit card skimmer devices that had been illegally installed inside the pumps at the Shamrock/Lea County Oil & Gas service station on North Main. They warn if you purchased diesel between Nov. 14-21, 2019, and used a credit card, you credit card information could be compromised.

The skimmer devices were not detectable outside the pumps and were not part of the card reading mechanism. Police said the devices electronically bypassed circuits within the pump and captured card information and PIN numbers and stored them. That information can then be electronically downloaded remotely to the suspect’s cellphone via WIFI or Bluetooth.

Police do not know if this is the only service station that has been targeted but LPD has notified all banks and service stations within the city.

If you did purchase diesel at the Shamrock during the time period, police advise notifying your bank.

Raymond E. Johnson, division director of the standards and consumer services division of the N.M. Department of Agriculture, said the find in Lovington is rarity but added there is no guarantee it will stay that way based on experiences in other states.

The N.M. Department of Agriculture inspects pumps for several things: to make sure the amount of gas being pumped matches the amount indicated on the pumps display, to make sure the quality of gas will not harm a vehicle, as well as other things like skimmer devices.

Fortunately, Johnson said finding skimmer devices in the state has been infrequent but he added it is extremely hard to catch and other areas in the country have a much bigger problem with the devices.

“We haven’t found many in the state of New Mexico,” Johnson said. “Over the last few years, nationwide, it has grown.”

States like Florida, he said, “find them by the hundreds.”

Johnson said as technology has improved, thieves have smarter devices that are easier to attach to a pump and easier to get the credit card information downloaded. Because of the improved technology and speed with which devices can be installed and taken away, thieves can be in and out before anyone — the consumer, the gas station or inspectors — are aware.

The Federal Trade Commission and the N.M. Department of Agriculture offer the following advice when it comes to skimming devices at a gas pump and protecting your credit cards:

•Check the pump panel for tampering. This lockable door on the gas pump or ATM should be closed and securely fastened. Check for a tamper-resistant seal/tape over the door. If the tamper-resistant seal is broken, do not use the gas pump, and tell an employee that the pump may not be safe to use.

• Inspect the card slot as well as the PIN pad. Try to wiggle the card slot. If it seems loose, you may want to move along to another terminal. Likewise, if the PIN pad seems too thick, or if it does not match the pads on other pumps, this is a sign that something is amiss.

• Be on the lookout for hidden cameras. High-tech data thieves sometimes use tiny cameras to obtain card information as you type it into the PIN pad. Be on the lookout for tiny pinhole cameras, or phony screen shades attached above the screen display that may conceal a hidden camera. Most importantly, if using the PIN pad, always shield your PIN with your hand.

• Avoid the PIN pad entirely. If you are paying for gas with a debit card, run the card as a credit card instead. This limits the cost to the current transaction, affords you additional protections, and avoids the PIN pad entirely. Another way to avoid the PIN pad, if you’re still wary of a pump’s payment system, is to pay for your gas inside.

• Choose the pump closest to the gas station or with cameras. Thieves often install their skimming devices on the least attended pumps at a gas station, so if possible, choose a pump close to the physical building or the cashier’s line of sight. Try to fuel up at stations that have cameras installed as an extra security measure.

Johnson said if in doubt, report it or question it.

“We tell the public to always give us a call. We can check on it for sure,” Johnson said. “Stay aware and stay diligent.”

Besides local police, if you have a concern about a gas pump you can contact Johnson’s office at 575-646-1616 or by email at ddscs@nmda.nmsu.edu.

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