The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry is warning drivers about credit card skimming devices after one was found earlier this month.
One credit card skimming device was discovered and removed by Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) Weights and Measures division inspectors and law enforcement over a four day period. The LDAF, U.S. Secret Service, Jefferson and St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Offices participated in a sweep of 4,830 retail motor fuel dispensers at 535 gas stations in East Baton Rouge, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes August 6-9, 2019 to search for skimming devices. The skimmer was found in an outlying area of St. Tammany Parish.
The joint effort had multiple goals:
● Work with local law enforcement jurisdictions to educate all involved on the detection of credit card skimmers in fuel dispensers.
● Define standard operating procedures (SOP’s) on evidence gathering and removal of devices.
● Work to train all law enforcement on best practices to detect and remove skimming devices.
● Develop a working relationship between all jurisdictions involved with credit card skimming devices.
● Detect and remove any device in the parishes inspected.
Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said, “This was an extremely successful joint effort by our department and law enforcement. The goal is to stay proactive and ahead of these criminals who continue to find new ways to scam people.”
In the past two years, LDAF inspectors have confiscated 48 skimming devices throughout the state. In addition to making sure all measuring devices are calibrated properly, 47 LDAF Weights and Measures inspectors are working in all 64 parishes each day to protect consumers from fraudulent practices secured from skimming devices inside gas pumps at 3,500 gas stations across the state.
This four day sweep in three parishes is a way to continue to hone their skills as well as work with local, parish, state, and federal authorities to share best practices. This also allows for the opportunity to train law enforcement as well as develop close working relationships at the local level.
“We remind convenience store employees to stay alert and try to monitor what is actually taking place at a gas pump,” said Strain. “If you see someone compromising the cabinet on the pump, please call authorities to check that pump. As for consumers who do not pay with cash, be vigilant in monitoring credit card statements for unauthorized purchases.”
“Gas pump skimming investigations remain a priority for the U.S. Secret Service,” said Special Agent in Charge Leslie Pichon from the New Orleans Field Office. “This sweep highlights the outstanding efforts and partnerships between the LDAF, local law enforcement and the Secret Service’s Financial Crimes Task Forces, to disrupt organized criminal groups who defraud financial institutions and innocent citizens.”
“Credit card skimming devices are tools criminals are using more and more to steal from our law-abiding citizens,” St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith said. “The devices are often undetectable to the untrained eye and by the time someone realizes they have been victimized, it is often days or weeks later and the criminals have moved on to another location. Partnering with the LDAF plus the U.S. Secret Service to participate in this sweep served two purposes. We not only looked for and attempted to identify devices currently in use on pumps in our parish to prevent future victims, but we also benefitted from the extensive knowledge of our partners to help further educate our personnel on how to detect and locate credit card skimmers in the future.”
Some tips to protect your personal information:
● Whenever possible, do not use the debit card function at the gas pump. Use it as a credit card in order to protect your pin number.
● Monitor your debit/credit card activity online and contact your bank to report unrecognized charges.
● Whenever using a credit card, try to use a pump that is easily seen by gas station employees. Pumps that are less visible are commonly targeted because crooks can easily install a skimmer in a short period of time.
● Check the pump card reader for signs of forced entry like bent panels or broken security tape.
Once the skimming devices are analyzed, all financial institutions affected are contacted by the Secret Service.