DAYTON — The threat of credit card skimming is real, it is ongoing, and it needs to be taken seriously. Local consumers received troubling news after five illegal credit card skimmers were found in southern Montgomery County gas pumps.
The devices were found at stations in West Carrollton, Moraine, Miamisburg and Germantown during a Skimmer Sweep led by Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith over the weekend of April 20.
This is the first discovery of multiple skimmers at one time in Montgomery County since 2013, and it is the most ever publicly found over a three-day period in a single county in Ohio.
Keith had three teams of weights and measures inspectors in the field, who checked more than 800 pumps at 100 gas stations for credit card skimmers as part of the sweep. The sweep was coordinated with county auditors from Butler, Greene, Warren, Hamilton and Franklin counties. No skimming devices were found in any of the other counties. The sweep was performed in cooperation with agents from the FBI.
All of the skimmers found had been installed on the same type of pump, a type with factory-standard locks that can be opened using a readily-available universal key. These criminals clearly targeted stations with these vulnerable gas pumps, according to Keith. All five of the skimmers had similar markings, indicating they all came from the same organized group of criminals.
“It was disturbing to find so many skimmers at once, in what was clearly an organized and targeted criminal effort,” said Keith. “We want to use this occasion to once again call on gas station owners and operators to install better locking mechanisms on their pumps.”
Keith’s inspectors will be performing regular pump inspections throughout the county all summer, and will continue to work with the FBI to help catch these criminals.
The FBI has indicated that stopping this crime is one of their top priorities here in Ohio and has reached out to county auditors to assist in their efforts. The credit card skimming crime has become increasingly prevalent in the state. More than 45 devices were found in Ohio gas pumps last year alone, and a dozen people were charged in a federal indictment related to credit card skimming in Northeast Ohio in October.
Skimming devices were found during the sweep at the following locations:
• Shell: 106 S. Alex Road, West Carrollton
• Ameristop: 1903 S. Alex Road, West Carrollton
• Marathon: 4520 S. Dixie Drive, Moraine
• Main Street Carryout: 155 S. Main Street, Miamisburg
• Marathon: 2822 Dayton-Germantown Pike, Germantown
The skimmers were removed and turned over to the FBI for investigation. The Auditor’s Office does not know how long the devices had been on the pumps, or if the criminals who placed them there were able to retrieve any data from them. Consumers who recently visited these stations should contact their financial institutions and take precautionary measures.
Protecting consumers is the ultimate goal of the Auditor’s Office, according to Keith. Although the skimmers were removed in the sweep, consumers should still be careful when filling up their tanks.
“Consumers should not be worried, but they should be cautious and vigilant while filling up at the pump,” Keith said. “If you witness suspicious activity, do not hesitate to contact the authorities.”
Keith recommends consumers take the following measures to protect their financial information from skimmers:
• Pay with cash. It’s the safest option.
• Use a credit card rather than a debit card when using plastic. It’s easier to challenge fraudulent charges when a credit card is used.
• Use pumps closest to the attendant, as criminals often target the pumps farther away.
• Monitor bank and credit card statements frequently.
• Report anything that indicates a pump has been tampered with.
Consumers interested in learning more about how to protect themselves from the skimming crime can visit Keith’s Stop Skimmers webpage at www.mcohio.org/StopSkimmers.
Audio recording from the news conference and pictures of the skimmers can be found in this Google Drive folder. A map of the skimmers found in the sweep is attached to this email.