Riverhead Police are warning residents to be alert for credit card skimming devices that may be installed on local gas pumps or ATMs after officers recovered a skimming device from a Route 58 gas station.

A technician servicing pumps at the Citgo gas station Wednesday located a skimming device on one of the pumps. The device, installed in a way that made it undetectable by consumers, was set up to capture information from credit or debit cards inserted at the pump, according to a police press release. The device did not appear to be capable of wirelessly transmitting information, police said.

“Since this device would have to be removed from the pump in order to retrieve any information it does not appear anyone’s personal information was compromised at this time,” police said in the release. Riverhead police detectives are investigating.

All other pumps at the Citgo station were checked and no additional devices were found, police said. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Riverhead Police Department at 631-727-4500. All calls will remain confidential.

Police urge residents to stay vigilant and continually check their credit card and bank statements for fraudulent activity.

Credit card skimming devices are not new, but their use by thieves at gas pumps has been on the rise, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to announce in November a statewide sweep of gas station dispensers. The state weights and measures bureau began training county weights and measures officials — who inspect and test gas pumps — to spot skimming devices.

Open point-of-sale terminals, such as gas pumps, as well as ATMs, are targets for criminals, ranging from local thieves to international crime syndicates, Cuomo said.

Skimming devices are attached to ATMs or credit card processing devices to steal the credit card and PIN numbers of customers. The device is often a realistic-looking card reader placed over the factory-installed card reader, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The information is either stored on an attached device or transmitted wirelessly. In addition, skimming typically involves the use of a hidden camera, installed on or near the device, to record customers’ entry of their PINs into the keypad. Sometimes a phony keypad is installed on top of the real keypad to record the customer’s keystrokes, the FBI says.

Cuomo said in November that the credit scoring company FICO estimates about 30 percent of all credit card fraud happens at point-of-sale locations such as gas pumps. Government and private research sources indicate that the cost to consumers of point-of-sale card fraud is between $3 billion and $6 billion a year.

How can you protect yourself?

In an interview with PC Magazine , a security researcher at at Kaspersky Lab offered these tips:

  • Check for signs of tampering on ATMs and dispensing devices. If something looks different — a different color or material, misaligned graphics, or anything else, don’t use the device.
  • If possible, compare the device to another at the same facility. If they don’t match up, don’t use either one.
  • Wiggle everything. Even if you can’t see any visual differences, push at everything. Pull at protruding parts like the card reader. See if the keyboard is securely attached and just one piece. Does anything move when you push at it? If so, don’t use the machine.
  • Cover your hand when you enter the number sequence on the PIN pad to avoid having your PIN recorded by a hidden camera.
  • ATMs inside banks are generally safer because of all the cameras, which dissuade criminals from attempting to install malicious hardware. ATMs inside busy locations like a grocery store or restaurant are also generally safer.
  • Be sure to monitor your bank statements and credit card statements for fraudulent activity. If you see any charges you don’t recognize, contact your bank or credit card company immediately.


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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.