Just when dropping gas prices were beginning to give drivers some relief, Texans face a new threat at the pump: identity thieves. High-tech crooks have begun stealing account numbers and PINs from drivers who pay at automated gas pumps, says the Dallas Morning News. It’s part of a national crime trend that probably originated on the West Coast this year. In Plano alone, police have recorded about 50 cases of ID theft and fraudulent use of debit card information probably connected to purchases at gas pumps.
The skimmers can steal credit card numbers, too, but thieves prefer debit cards because they mean quick cash at automated teller machines. They use the information to make fake cards and have hit ATMs – some as far away as the northeast – for $200 to $800 a pop. Thieves have long used devices called “skimmers” to copy information from the magnetic strips of debit and credit cards, but new matchbox-size versions of the gadgets fit onto gas pump card readers without being noticeable and copy the numbers without compromising the transaction.