MCDONOUGH, Ga. — A Valero gas station in McDonough was targeted by credit card skimmers and Henry County Police are asking anyone who might have traveled through the area to check their bank and financial statements for signs of fraud.
An employee at the Valero gas station at 2062 Hwy 155 North in McDonough called police on Jan. 11, after he found a skimming device attached to the inside of a pump. Management said they found another device on the ground near the same pump about two weeks earlier, but didn’t know what it was.
Henry County Police Captain Joey Smith said that the skimmers at the McDonough station were Bluetooth-enabled. So, every time someone bought gas at the pump using a credit card, the skimmer was transmitting the credit card information to their smartphone or laptop instantly.
Police believe the devices might have been on the pump for about two weeks before it was discovered. According to the report, the skimmers look very similar to legitimate devices attached to gas pumps, making them difficult to detect.
"It's one of those situations where you're going to have to decide, how are you going to purchase gas?" Smith said. "Cash, or pay inside the store. Until they catch up with the criminals, basically that's what they're going to have to do."
That's already a habit for Charles West, a former law enforcement officer. He said, whenever he buys gas, he always tugs at the credit card slot first, to make sure there is no illegal skimmer in the slot that's about to steal his credit card info. But, he was surprised to learn that the skimmers were inside the pump.
"It's just not fair to us citizens that pay taxes that go to work and make an honest living," West said. "I think it's a shame."
West said from now on -- he's only paying in cash.
Investigators took the devices directly to the U.S. Secret Service Electronic Task Force in Atlanta, according to the Henry County police report.
Secret Service Special Agent Matthew O'Neill said it's easier for thieves to get inside the pumps and install electronic skimmers out of sight.
"The skilled guys can do it in 20 to 30 seconds," O'Neill said. "It would be impossible for a consumer to tell if there is a skimmer inside of a fuel pump."
This past Thanksgiving, with millions of drivers out on the roads, the Secret Service checked 400 gas stations across 16 states and found 200 skimmers. In total, thieves got away with $6 million from about 16,000 people who were clueless until it was too late.
It is unclear how many customers might have been affected and they're asking anyone who might have visited the gas station to check their financial statements. There are no security cameras in place that showed the skimmers.
Those who believe their information might have been compromised should contact local law enforcement or Henry County Police.