EAGAN, Minn. (KMSP) - The Eagan Police Department hopes a new program cracks down on a type of identity theft called skimming. Skimming involves criminals installing devices inside credit card readers at gas pumps; the devices provide thieves the credit card numbers, which are then often used to buy gift cards.
In an Eagan case last year, police arrested five men who used fourteen credit cards to purchase $7,000 worth of gift cards at Sam’s Club. Inside the men’s truck, investigators say they found $21,000 in gift cards — but investigators say the men were tied to a larger ring linked to $5 million in fraud.
“Typically, who we see doing this is people traveling around the country, it’s groups of people. Two, three, four, five groups of people will set a skimming device in town one day, they’ll capture the credit card. They transfer this on to cards, and they use those cards. So in a two, three-day span, they’re getting ten, twenty, sometimes a hundred thousand dollars,” Officer Aaron Machtemes, who is working on the anti-skimming program at the Eagan Police Department, told Fox 9.
Spike in Skimming
Officer Machtemes told Fox 9 that investigators have seen a spike it skimming, and the spike may be tied to criminals rushing to take advantage of swiping credit card readers at gas stations before the 2017 deadline for gas stations to replace them with chip readers.
“Thieves are on a mad dash until the deadline to get as much cash as they can from people before this new technology takes place,” Machtemes said.
Skimming investigations are difficult and time consuming, so prevention is key. For years, some gas stations have placed security tape over their terminals so they know if their readers have been compromised. Building on these prevention techniques, a new program, created by the Eagan Police Department, will provides incentives and training to ensure gas stations properly inspect their pumps.
“We thought there’s information we need to get out to gas stations so they can protect their customers. The idea kind of progressed of how can this be a win for all involved. So we developed Skim Stop, which is a program that is a partnership with local law enforcement and local gas stations to create an accountability for gas stations to check their pumps daily,” Machtemes told Fox 9. “That way, customers can make a wise choice. If they see a pump with a Skim Stop sticker on it, they can know that pump is regularly being checked to protect their information.”
Starting Friday, Eagan gas stations participating in the program, called “Skim Stop,” will have stickers on their pumps notifying customers the pumps are checked daily for skimmers. These participating gas stations have received training from law enforcement.
“It’s a win-win-win, it’s a win for law enforcement, it’s a win for customers, and the businesses themselves,” Machtemes said. “If this program were to take hold in the metro area, this would make Minneapolis and Minnesota very unattractive, so basically Skim Stop protects Minnesotans.”
Machtemes said the Eagan Police Department is already talking to other agencies about sharing their program, and hopes it can eventually go statewide and even nationwide.