Janesville police suspect the people in this image installed a credit card skimmer at a Janesville gas station Oct. 25. The vehicle displayed no front license plate.


Thieves are still trying to get their hands on our money with electronic devices known as skimmers.

The latest case in Janesville was in late October, when a gas pump technician found a skimmer inside a pump at a gas station on Janesville’s east side.

Police did not receive any reports of people’s financial-card identities being stolen, said Lt. Charles Aagaard of the police department’s investigation division.

Police believe three people in a black GMC SUV with no front license plate installed the skimmer Oct. 25.

In a search warrant affidavit, police described surveillance video showing one of the three making a purchase while two others stood near the pump with the driver’s door open, blocking the surveillance camera’s view.

The SUV backed up to exit the station, so the camera never saw the rear plate, according to the affidavit.

The gas pump began to malfunction and was taken out of service, and the skimmer was discovered a week later when the technician came to fix it, the affidavit states.

The search warrant was issued to track down the credit card used to make the purchase, but no arrest has been made.

Older versions of financial-card skimmers were attached to the outside of gas pumps, but newer versions are installed inside. In either case, the skimmer downloads the card-owner’s encoded information, which can be used to make card copies known as clones.

It did not appear the suspects forced the pump housing open, so they likely had a key, Aagaard said.

The gas station increased security after the incident: Each pump now must be opened with a different key, instead of one key for all, Aagaard said.

Aagaard noted skimmers can be installed on any device that takes a credit or debit card, including ATMs. He advised people to monitor their card accounts for purchases they didn’t make.

The federal government indicted four Brazilians a year ago on suspicion of using skimmers in states including Florida, New York, Ohio and Illinois, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio.

The defendants were accused of using cloned cards to buy electronics such as iPhones, laptops and virtual-reality glasses, electronic cigarettes and clothing, and sending them to Florida, where they were sold on the internet, according to the release.

The Secret Service issued skimmer alerts last summer and reported finding 86 skimmers in an operation before the Memorial Day weekend and 70 during Fourth of July weekend.

CreditCards.com, which sells financial products, says a skimmer is usually installed at only one pump at a gas station, but that one skimmer can capture data from 30 to 100 cards a day.

Financial cards with an EMV chip are harder to crack, but many gas stations don’t have chip readers at the pumps.

Owners of gas pumps become liable under the law if they don’t install chip readers by Oct. 1, 2020, according to Convenience Store News, an industry publication.

Gas pumps have been a big target of skimmer thieves in recent years because they use the old card-swiping technology, according to CreditCards.com.

The nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center says any fraudulent purchase made with magnetic-stripe cards aren’t the financial institutions’ responsibility.

“That’s why it’s extra-important that consumers be on the lookout for skimming, particularly at gas stations,” the organization said on its website.

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