KATY, Texas - Authorities are investigating after three skimmers were recently found at a Katy gas station.
Skimming devices have been a problem throughout the Houston-area for a while now. Officials say they’re installed at gas pumps by criminals who are hoping to steal from customers’ credit card accounts.
Inspectors with the Texas Department of Agriculture look for these illegal card skimmers. The TDA is in charge of anything sold in weight, such as fuel.
Authorities said the three pumps at the “On the Way” Chevron station on North Frye Road in Katy, had the illegal readers.
There’s no telling how much money might’ve been accessed or how many customers have been affected. It’s also unclear who installed them.
Customers at the busy station were surprised when we shared the news with them on Tuesday. “That’s pretty scary,” said driver, Darryl Smith.
Authorities say the skimmers are easy ways criminals can gain access to bank account information, if you use your credit card to gas up.
“It’s very common,” says Lacy Fryer, an inspector with the Texas Department of Agriculture.
Fryer immediately noticed a key broken off into the lock at one of the outer pumps at the gas station.
That may be a sign the pump has been compromised. “Make sure the lock’s not broken,” Fryer advises.
Officials say there are a few things to you can do to protect yourself, while at the pump.
1. Use the pump closest to the storefront.
2. Before pumping, check for unusual Bluetooth signals with your phone.
If it shows a string of numbers or letters, a skimmer could be in use.
3. Check that the security tape on the pump cabinet hasn’t been damaged.
“Look at the seals. They have tampered seals, sometimes,” Fryer adds.
4. Always save the receipt and monitor your bank statements after filling up.
Complaints by customers tipped off inspectors at the Katy site.
5. The safest bet is to pay inside with cash.
“I don’t ever use my card. I always pay cash,” says Brook Morgan. The young woman says she fills up her car several times a week and can’t afford to be a victim.
There are over 400,000 fuel pumps in the state. If you think you’ve been the victim of a skimmer, contact the TDA. You can reach them, by calling 1-800-TELL-TDA.
The TDA put together a helpful video on the department's YouTube page with more tips to avoid being skimmed.