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How to protect yourself against gasoline pump skimmers

BATON ROUGE - Skimming found at gasoline pumps are concerning for anyone swiping their card.

Tuesday, the Department Of Agriculture and Forestry said at least 15 skimming devices were found in eight parishes in the last month.

Following a complaint at a pump in Baton Rouge, WBRZ learned more about what to look for before pumping gas and how to help protect yourself from being scammed.

Field agents, including Bill Hanson inspect more than 60,000 gas pumps a year in Louisiana, on a yearly basis and if there is a complaint.

Inside the pump, Hanson searched for a foreign object near the credit card reader. He says the object is hard to describe but it's small and usually has gray or black tape around it, attached to the wiring.

Many pumps now have a seal on them. If that seal is ripped, broken or shows tampering, Commissioner Mike Strain says don't insert a credit card, instead report it.

"If that seal is broken, it'll be visible to you go inside an tell the attendant," said Strain.

Wednesday, Hanson said sometimes the gasoline attendant changes the receipt paper and does not change that seal.

Normally, a skimmer is going to be in the area where the credit card is inserted. There are two types of skimmers. One, the person installs and has to go back to retrieve the data. The other is bluetooth and the thief can operate the device from afar.

There are a few things you can do to protect yourself, which include frequently checking bank statements for erroneous charges. At first, a thief might attempt to charge a small amount to see if it works, if it does a larger charge is coming. Sometimes the bank catches this and will call. Strain says, never use a debit card with a PIN to purchase gas at the pump.

"If they get your PIN, they can clean out your bank account," he said.

According to Strain, it's a good idea to use the inside pumps closest to the station, where the tenant or a camera is visible.

It takes an average of three minutes and multiple hands for someone to install a skimmer. Hundreds of transactions can occur at a pump a day. Strain says heavily targeted areas include the thoroughfares, I-10, I-12, I-20, I-49, I-55.

If you have any idea that you may have been scammed, call the Dept. of Agriculture and Forestry at 225-922-1234 to report the gasoline pump or station.

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