Action 9 investigates skimming scheme



ORLANDO, Fla. - Action 9 investigates credit card skimming at local gas stations, a crime that has dozens of new victims every week.

Two Orange County women said their debit cards were hit at the same gas station, wiping out their bank accounts.

Katie Morris said she filled her tank at a Hess gas station. She told police a skimmer inside the pump stole her debit card number and personal identification number.

"I never expected to have it happen to us," said Morris.

Morris said her partner's bank account was also compromised after she bought gas at the same station.

The crooks stole $1,600 from their accounts before they called the bank with no cash left.

"It happened to us on a Saturday so we were Sunday without any money, then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, before anything was done," said Morris.

Security experts call central Florida one of three hot zones nationwide. Gas stations are a top target and isolated pumps are easy prey for sophisticated scams, officials said.

Many scammers now use wireless technology so once the skimmer is inside the pump they can download your card information from across the street where the employee can't see it.

Thieves sometimes attach a Bluetooth wireless device to the card reader, making it quicker to get those numbers.

Investigators said that device, combined with a widely available master pump key, fuel the scam.

"They said there were four keys for this one kind of pump. So if you had a ring of these, you can get into any pump," said Cpl. Jerry Preston with the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Many companies now use security stickers so an employee can see if a crook got inside, but experts said thieves can easily duplicate the stickers. Best advice is to use credit cards or cash to keep bad guys away from your bank accounts.

"It's been two weeks of a nightmare pretty much," said Morris.

Hess corporate said it has increased security.

A credit card is better than a debit card because you can dispute charges without anyone gaining access to your bank accounts.