Eight suspects who were allegedly involved in credit card skimming operations in western Michigan are now being charged in federal court. The suspects face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and access device fraud.
According to police, the fraudsters hid credit card skimmers at gas stations in small towns throughout southwest Michigan. When unsuspecting customers used pumps that had been tampered with to purchase fuel, the devices would harvest the data from the card’s magnetic stripe. The suspects reportedly recovered the files containing the stolen credit card information using a gas pump key and then encoded it onto manufactured credit cards. Some of the cloned cards were used to purchase innocent-looking gift cards to Meijer and other big-box stores.
When electronic skimming devices are placed inside gas station pumps, they are completely concealed from view. Criminals can use keys to access the interior of a pump in a matter of minutes. Devices are often placed at gas stations in low-traffic areas (especially if they close at night) or at pumps located at a considerable distance from the actual building.
The recent shift to chip-and-PIN technology will not protect customers from a skimming attack, experts say. Gas stations are not required to update their credit card readers at the pump until 2017.
In recent weeks, inspectors with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) have been working to locate skimming devices and warn consumers about the potential threat of card fraud. Customers are cautioned to stay alert, check bank account activity regularly, and use pumps closer to the store when possible.
“Bottom line, this is fraud,” said Jamie Clover Adams, MDARD director. “This is stealing someone’s personal information for criminal use. These inspections are just another way MDARD is protecting consumers at the pump. Through the collaborative efforts with the Michigan Petroleum Association, U.S. Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement, we’re letting these criminals know Michigan is not open for business.”