ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An unlikely state department is doing its part to curb identity theft.
The state’s Department of Agriculture, which oversees gas pump inspections, is now fighting back with new training to help its inspectors identify credit card skimmers at gas stations.
Skimmers are a growing problem in New Mexico that have been found at dozens of gas stations statewide.
The devices, which target bank card readers, are designed to steal customers information and ultimately access their financial accounts.
While in the past, many of the card readers have been designed to overlay card readers, authorities say the devices are getting harder to spot and more prevalent.
“You know I can’t even keep track, there’s been quite a few,” said Chris Hall of the skimming devices he’s found.
Hall is a gas pump inspector for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.
“It’s definitely become something that we’re looking at on a regular basis,” said Hall.
Hall inspects around 1,500 gas pumps each year in the metro area alone. As an inspector, his primary job is to make sure pumps are dispensing the right amount of gas and a quality product. However, skimming devices have turned Hall into a sort-of investigator.
“We’re not just responding to suspicions of their being skimmers out there, it’s something we’re proactively trying to find,” said Hall.
Inspectors with the Department of Agriculture recently received special training to help spot them. NMDA staff recently attended a national conference in Florida where credit card skimming is prevalent, with its staff learning new training to detect new kinds of skimming technology being used by criminals.
Responsible for checking roughly 1,600 gas stations each year, the state’s ten gas pump inspectors say they have their hands full looking for skimming technology.
“Really that’s the biggest learning curve here is keeping up with the trends in technology and how they’re attempting to use skimming devices differently,” said Hall.
The NMDA told KRQE News 13 that it found at least six skimmers all over the state last year. However, they believe many more skimmers are found by gas station owners who may be hesitant to report they’ve found the devices out of fear of bad publicity and how customers will react.
The NMDA inspects each gas pump in New Mexico annually. They advise the following precautions to take to avoid becoming a victim of credit card skimming:
- pay with cash inside stations
- only use pumps visible by the cashier
- verify audit tape is intact
- tug on credit card reader ensure it has not been tampered with
To report a credit card skimmer, alert authorities and the business manager. Fuel retailers in New Mexico can call NMDA SCS at 575-646-1616.
Identity theft can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission.