KINGMAN - Those who paid at the pump while filling their tank at two gas stations along Beale Street in the last four months are being advised to check their credit card statements.
Citigroup and Discover credit services have identified dozens of accounts that were compromised through the use of a skimming device at the pump at the Exxon station at 999 W. Beale Street and the Chevron station across the street.
Police believe the skimming devices were installed in July, but the crooks didn't actually begin accessing the accounts until September.
Skimmers work by grabbing information off of credit or debit cards when they are scanned at the pump or an ATM machine.
In most cases, the skimmers are wired into the card reader out of view of the patron.
The suspects then take those numbers and stamp their own credit cards, which can be used anywhere.
Card numbers stolen from the Kingman gas stations have been tracked to purchases made at Walmart, Walgreen's and various restaurants in Phoenix.
The Kingman Police Department was notified of the fraud after being contacted by a Las Vegas representative from Citigroup working out of the company's loss prevention division.
Sgt. Bob Fisk said that one of the devices was hooked into the keypad at the pump, meaning that pin numbers from debit cards could also be compromised.
The crooks gain access inside the pumps using keys that can be bought off the Internet, Fisk said. The suspects usually install the devices out of view of the clerks and oftentimes at night.
Installation takes less than a minute, Fisk said.
"In 15 seconds, they're in and done," he said.
The suspects are taking advantage of technology, using Bluetooth-enabled devices so that they can download the stolen credit card numbers remotely without having to return to the scene of the actual device.
The chances of tracking down the suspects is unlikely, Fisk said. Most credit card users are reimbursed for the fraudulent charges, meaning the companies eat the costs.
Banks and gas stations are now becoming more vigilant to the crime, Fisk said, with some owners installing alarms that go off when a pump or ATM is tampered with.
Consumers can protect themselves by paying the clerk inside and monitoring monthly statements for any red flags. Individuals should also report suspicious card readers at ATM machines and gas pumps to the property owner and police.