WORTHINGTON - Some patrons of a local gas station had their credit card number compromised last week while routinely filling their car’s gas tank.

According to Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening, a credit card skimming device was discovered Feb. 15 inside one gas pump at Blue Line Travel Center in northeast Worthington.

The device connected to the scammer’s electronic device through Bluetooth technology, Wilkening said.

“If they can gain access to the pump they can sit in the parking lot, gather information and go almost undetected,” he said.

Wilkening said Blue Line staff contacted his office during the afternoon of Feb. 15 after they received multiple reports from area banks that had detected fraudulent purchases on customer’s accounts.

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The device was discovered by one of his deputies, Wilkening said, who used a mobile application, Skimmer Scanner, which detected approximately what pump was suspected to have the wireless technology. The Bluetooth skimmer was the first of its kind the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office or Worthington Police Department had discovered, Wilkening said and WPD Investigator Brandon Peil confirmed.  

The sheriff’s office removed and confiscated the technology, but no arrests have been made.

The investigation remains active, Wilkening said.

The Nobles County Sheriff’s Office alerted surrounding counties’ law enforcement agencies, Wilkening said.

Peil said last week’s skimming device discovery led the city police to check all gas pumps in the city. Nothing suspicious was located in Worthington, he reported.

Additional security measures are also underway in an effort to prevent further events, he added.

 

The Bluetooth hookup is just one form of a card skimming device that may be found at a self-service gas pump or other machines with a card reader.

Wilkening said last week’s incident could have occured at any gas station anywhere, as people are continuously conspiring to get money out of a victim’s pocket and into theirs. Peil agreed, noting that about 32 million Americans had credit card information stolen last year.

“Anything you can slide your credit card on, they make something that can slide over it,” Peil said.

This could include ATMs, or on the outside of gas pumps.

A good rule of thumb, Peil said, is that if an object can be removed by tugging on the card slot of any machine, it’s likely there is a skimming device and law enforcement should be contacted immediately.  

Wilkening said skimming devices are made to become more disguised and fit right over the original card slot. However, the physical skimmers are potentially more noticeable than the Bluetooth kind found at Blue Line, he added.  

Peil offered some tips an individual can take to potentially avoid compromising their card. When fueling up, individuals could opt to pay cash or credit inside with a store clerk.

“It’s harder to put a skimmer on something that’s monitored by the gas station attendant,” Peil said.

On a related note, individuals should attempt to use a gas pump closer to the teller, he added.

Some credit card companies, Peil said, offer the option for its cardholders to receive texts or alerts when a transaction is made.

As always, Peil said, individuals should monitor their credit card statements monthly to make sure there are no suspicious charges.

Peil and Wilkening said that if anything suspicious is discovered, individuals can contact their appropriate agency.