HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) - An app developer from Florida has created a product for Android devices called Skim Plus that can detect the Bluetooth signal emanating from an illegal credit card skimmer.
The Butler County Auditor's Office Weights & Measures department has tested the app and it detected the Bluetooth signal from two skimmers that Auditor inspectors had previously pulled from fuel pumps in Butler County.
"We still encourage people to pay for gas with cash," said Auditor Roger Reynolds. "However, if people are going to continue to pull out their credit cards and swipe them at a pump they might want to use this app first."
When using Skim Plus, hit refresh and the app will quickly search for any Bluetooth skimmer hardware within 100 meters, or 330 feet. It will then alert the user if any known Bluetooth skimmers are present.
Skim Plus also marks detected Bluetooth skimmers onto a map so the user can see all the skimmers which have been found at a gas station or ATM.
Skim Plus can be downloaded for free or there is a .99 cent version that includes the mapping tool.
There have been a total of 20 credit card skimmers pulled from Butler County pumps since November 2015. Dozens more have been pulled out of fuel pumps in Hamilton and Warren counties and there have also been skimmers found at self-checkout lanes at stores in Hamilton County and northern Kentucky.
While the first skimmers found in the county were not Bluetooth enabled, most of the ones found in 2017 were able to emit a Bluetooth signal. By using a skimmer with Bluetooth technology, the thieves just have to park nearby to download the stolen data. They can leave the skimmer inside the pump and lessen the risk of being caught.
The Auditor's Office continues to conduct weekly skimmer checks at vulnerable pumps and is using the app as part of its inspection. No skimmers have been found in the county since August and the app has provided no false positives.
Currently, the app is only available for use on Android devices, but the designer said he is working on getting it available for Apple devices.
When a credit card is run through a skimmer, the small device stores the cardholder's data. Once the credit information is obtained, the thief can then sell the information or clone the credit card. All the devices found so far in the county have been located inside fuel pumps.
For those that continue to pay with a card instead of cash, debit cards should be avoided. When a debit card passes through a skimmer, the PIN and the account number are stolen, allowing direct access to the person's checking account.
Tips for Consumers
- NEVER use a debit card when paying for gas at the pump. Thieves can steal PIN numbers.
- Frequent stations that have newer pumps. Many stores now feature pumps that shut down when accessed by unauthorized persons.
- Report any unusual activity or anything that looks out of place.
- Monitor monthly bank and credit card statements for fraudulent charges.
- Use cash or prepaid cards to pay for purchases whenever possible.
- If you believe you have been a victim of a skimmer scam, notify local law enforcement and your credit card issuer immediately.