Skimmer fraudster targets Little Havana gas station customers

Cops search for thief who installed skimmer at Marathon gas pump

By Christian De La Rosa - Reporter, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

MIAMI - If you or someone you know was a customer of a gas station in Miami's East Little Havana, detectives want you to check your credit and debit cards' records. 

Adrian Mendoza said he could have been a victim on Thursday afternoon. He arrived to the Marathon gas station at the southeast corner of Eighth Street and 12th Avenue, just after police officers showed up in search of fingerprints.

Miami Police Department detectives said the fraudster placed the small device, which is designed to exploit the vulnerabilities of the magnetic-strip technology, at fuel pump number 3. 

The hacked card reader was just steps away from TD Bank. If the hacker was using a Bluetooth connection to connect with a laptop -- in a method known as bluesnarfing -- they were intercepting transaction details without having to go back to the gas station. 

The Secret Service estimates skimming theft costs over $1 billion annually in the U.S. alone. Nikkie Fried, the Florida commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, was in Miramar Thursday to warn consumers that South Florida remains a fertile field for the crime. 

"Not only are they finding the credit cards and using them here, but then they are selling them," Fried said. 

Authorities say the fraud in South Florida is most commont in southern Broward County. Paying inside the station with digital wallets, cash or a credit card with a zero-liability policy is still the safest way to avoid becoming a victim.  

Read these tips before you slide your card at the pump:

1. The fraudsters have to open the fuel dispenser door to install the skimmer. Check if the seal is broken or forced open. 

2. Wiggle the card reader. If it feels loose, don't use it. 

Hialeah Police Department

3. Use gas pumps that are close to the station's cashier or surveillance camera. 

4. Avoid using debit cards at the pump. 

5. Some hackers install cameras to get your debit card PIN number, so cover your hand. 

6. Get a skimmer scanner app

A South Florida company has created an app that protects drivers from gas pump skimmers.

7. Set up fraud alerts on your credit cards. 

 

University of Florida develops tool to detect card skimmers

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