Boise Police Department
News Release

William L. Bones
Chief of Police

Contact: BPD Media Relations Office


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Consumer Alert: Credit Card Skimmers found in Boise

Boise, March 23, 2013 - Boise Police are reminding citizens to be diligent about checking their credit and debt card statements. This time the reason is two credit card skimmers found yesterday at a Boise gas station.

"Card users would never have seen the skimmers. The thieves have the technology to place them inside the gas pump," said Boise Police Financial Crimes detective Wade Spain. "The only way a citizen will know they've been victimized is to see a charge they didn't make on the statement from their bank or financial institution."

"If they see a charge they know they didn't make, they should call their bank or financial institution and their local police department right away," said Det. Spain.

What Happened: Boise Police were notified yesterday, Monday, March 26 by the manager of a gas station located not far off Interstate 84. He told officers two skimmers were found by a technician who had come out to repair the gas pumps after they malfunctioned.

Boise Police immediately took custody of the skimmers and have turned them over to Agents with the United States Secret Service to inspect and further investigate. At this time, it's unknown if any consumer cards have been compromised. To date, Boise Police have not had any reports from citizens saying a fraudulent transaction came from that location.

Information given to Boise Police is similar skimming devices have also been found very recently at other gas stations in southern Idaho outside Boise City.

What is a Credit Card Skimmer? A credit card skimmer is a device designed to steal your financial data when you’re accessing either a point of sale, such as at a gas station pump, or an ATM machine.

When you insert your debit or credit card into a cash machine, for example, a reader on the inside of the machine interprets the information on your card’s magnetic strip and that, coupled with the PIN you type into the keypad, gives you access to the money in your bank accounts. If you put your card into a machine that has a skimmer device on it, the skimmer also has a reader in it that records the information on your card’s magnetic strip. A second element of a skimmer is able to record your PIN, thus giving the criminal access to funds in that account.

In the most recent cases, thieves placed the skimmers on the inside of the gas pump, attaching the skimmer to the internal circuitry of the machine. That means consumers using the machines would never notice the device and would only find out they've been victimized by checking their financial statements or being alerted by their financial institution of suspicious charges.  

Advice to Consumers: Check Your Financial Statements: Credit Card Skimmers are not new. This time they've been found at gas stations, next time it could be an ATM or similar device. As always, officers advise credit and debt card users to carefully inspect transaction statements and report any fraudulent charges to their financial institution and to local police. Local police agencies work closely with the US Secret Service to track and investigate these types of crimes since they often cross local jurisdictional, even state or international boundaries.

Second Consumer Alert this Week: On March 22, Boise Police alerted citizens through the department Facebook page that several cases of credit and debit card compromise had been reported from area retailers. It appears the card information was ‘hacked’ remotely through the Internet from an as yet unknown source and was not in any way the fault of an employee or the store locally. Financial crimes detectives say this is a national crime trend. Again, the best defense is to keep a close eye on your accounts and notify your financial institution and local police immediately if you find unauthorized transactions. 

Call 911 if: Detectives believe the thieves are able to install the skimmers quickly but must spend some time at the machine to dis-assemble it to some degree. Many of the suspects found responsible for these types of crimes are not local, but travel to different locations installing the skimmers then return some time later to retrieve them. Anyone who sees suspicious activity near a gas pump or ATM should call 911 immediately.

From the FBI: How to Avoid being Skimmed

- Inspect the ATM, gas pump, or credit card reader before using it…be suspicious if you see anything loose, crooked, or damaged, or if you notice scratches or adhesive/tape residue.

- When entering your PIN, block the keypad with your other hand to prevent possible hidden cameras from recording your number.

- If possible, use an ATM at an inside location (less access for criminals to install skimmers).

- Be careful of ATMs in tourist areas…they are a popular target of skimmers.

- If your card isn’t returned after the transaction or after hitting “cancel,” immediately contact the financial institution that issued the card.

FBI Release: Taking a trip to the ATM? Beware of Skimmers