Gas pump skimmer fraud on the rise in SLO County

Aug 4, 2020

San Luis Obispo County is seeing an uptick in fraud connected with credit card skimmers, officials say.

Recently, county inspectors say they’ve found 16 card skimmers at three different gas stations around the county and they aren't sure just how widespread the problem is.

Arroyo Grande resident Robert Renetsky used his debit card at a gas station while on a road trip near Fresno a few years ago.

About twenty minutes later, he says his bank froze his account and cited a strange charge of nearly $1,000 at Home Depot in Burbank.

“So it’s so far,” said Robert Renetsky. “There is no way logistically that I could have driven from where I used it at the gas station into the store that people used my card.”

Renetsky realised someone must have stolen his information from the gas pump he had just used. He was shocked, since everything seemed normal about the pump itself.

“ I didn’t notice anything different,” Renetsky. “After that, I really pay attention.”

SLO County Weights and Measures Inspector David Aguayo said the technology is getting increasingly sophisticated. While some card skimmers are attached to card readers on the outside of the gas pump, easier to spot. Now, the common skimmers are ones installed inside the pump itself, making them virtually impossible for consumers to detect.

“The ones that we currently found in this last sweep, were skimmers that actually had bluetooth technology,” Aguayo said. “ So that’s where the dispensers don’t have to be opened up again.”

Meaning that right when people slide their cards in, the card info is being sent to the person who put the card skimmer inside.

Aguayo said avoid pumps that are further away from the entrance of the gas station.

“Use the stations that are closest to the cashier,” Aguayo said. “We tend to have less issues or finds at those locations.”

He also recommends if you don’t have cash, pay with a credit card instead of a debit card and keep a lookout on your statements, as scammers tend to start with little charges first.

“Smaller transactions, downwards to 99 cents,” Aguayo said. “Those are usually a good indicator that there is something going on with your card number.”

Aguayo said he can’t say where the recent skimmers were found since it's a pending investigation, but did say inspectors are stepping up their checks on gas stations countywide.