Cellphones Can Detect Certain Credit Card Skimmers

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Your cellphone could be the key to spotting a credit card skimmer at a gas pump or ATM.

Frank Pollock spends his days inspecting gas pumps making sure you are not getting ripped off. In more recent times as the Chief Inspector for the Allegheny County Bureau of Weights and Measures he’s not just looking at gas quantities.

“We look for skimmers every day when we look at gas pumps,” Pollock says.

Skimmers have become the most dominant tool in the credit card thieves’ tool bag. Some attach as overlays over the gas pump, ATM, or video rental box, intercepting your information as you swipe.

Pollock says check for that type of skimmer by grabbing the slot with your fingers and “shake it a little bit make sure it’s straight. If it’s a little loose, if you have some suspicions, go and talk to the manager. “

Others require the thief to pop open the gas pump and install them inside. Pollock says, “it connects to the back of the credit card reader and it goes right to the motherboard.” Two of those have been found inside local gas pumps this summer.

And now the credit card thieves have figured out how to make their skimmers broadcast the information to them by Bluetooth.

“It’s really cheap and easy for the bad guy to do,” says SBS Security hacker John Waldman. “Utilizing Bluetooth now takes away the physical component of having to go and check on a skimmer. So they can be within 30 feet of the [skimmer] and steal the data that way.”

With the wiring and transmitter inside the pump, you will never see it. But your cellphone can.

So to check a pump before you swipe, go to settings on your cellphone. Open up Bluetooth and have it search for sources. If a string of suspicious numbers come up on the search, do not swipe your card in that pump, ATM or video rental box. You should also report it to the business where it’s located.

Often skimmers are accompanied by a tiny hidden camera focused on the keypad to record your pin number. To avoid being victimized, the experts say use the card as a credit card to avoid putting in your pin.

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