Debit card fraud reports lead police to skimmer in Richland County

A device used to illicitly collect buyers’ debit card information to steal from them was found in a Richland Center gas pump this week, authorities said.

Richland Center police said the department was investigating several complaints of debit card fraud over the weekend. Each complaint involved debit card numbers and their associated PIN being stolen and then used fraudulently on a cloned card.

According to the report, the method is consistent with thieves using a skimmer device that can surreptitiously collect credit or debit card information. Richland Center police said the use of skimmers has become more common across the country in recent years, most commonly illegally installed inside gas pumps. After the thieves install the skimmer in the pump computer, they return after a period of time and remove the device or collect the data, which consists of the credit or debit card information from customers who paid at the pump.

Skimmer found at Triangle Kwik Stop

Chief Lucas Clements said that while investigating the rash of debit card fraud complaints, the department worked with local gas stations to check for skimmers. A device was found at Triangle Kwik Stop on Sextonville Road.

Police removed the skimmer, and no additional skimmers were found within the city, according to the report.

Police said Wednesday that the Triangle Kwik Stop has already added additional anti-tampering security features and monitoring to each of its pumps and there isn’t a concern of further accounts being compromised.

Clements suggests anyone who has used bought gas at the pump at Triangle Kwik Stop in recent weeks to review bank statements for fraudulent activity. If fraudulent activity is found, call the police department or sheriff’s office to report the crime.

How to protect yourself

Clements said that during this investigation, two skimmers were found in neighboring Viroqua. Clements said it illustrates that card-skimmer criminals travel far and wide, and buyers should be vigilant when paying at the pump.

Clements suggests consumers can help protect themselves from card fraud by:

Enabling Bluetooth on a smartphone and searching for unusual signals nearby before swiping a card to purchase gas. If a signal comes back from the gas pump, don’t use it and immediately notify law enforcement and store personnel.

Checking to make sure the gas pump dispenser cabinet is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. Many stations now put a piece of security tape over the cabinet to ensure it has not been opened by unauthorized individuals.

Using a gas pump close to the front of the store. Thieves often place skimmers at the gas pumps farther away from the store so they are not noticed as quickly.

Making payments inside the store with the cashier.

Using a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards have better fraud protection, and the money is not deducted immediately from an account.

If using a debit card, run it as credit. Since the credit option doesn’t require a PIN, buyers have more protection.

Monitoring bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges. In an attempt to not raise suspicion, skimmer thieves might delay using your account from the time they obtained your card information.