When you stop at a gas station to fill your tank, you likely won’t notice if anything is slightly different in the credit card slot.

But devices that can be installed in minutes or less can read and store your account information, and at least two have been found in Johnson County in the past week.

Employees at gas stations near Bargersville and in Franklin have discovered illegal devices called credit card skimmers stuck inside gas pumps which copy customers’ card numbers. In July, a Center Grove area couple had their credit card numbers stolen and used in Florida after using the card at a gas station along State Road 135. Police suspect the theft was due to a skimmer.

The devices are placed inside the credit card machine, so they aren’t noticeable unless employees look inside the pump, police said. ATMs also can have similar skimmers or card readers attached, Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox said.

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The devices copy your credit card information using the magnetic strip, which can then be used without having the actual card. The devices have become more common across the nation, and now gas station employees are told to check for them.

That’s how the skimmer at a Franklin gas station was found. At 4:30 a.m. Monday, the employee at the gas station on King Street was doing a routine check for the devices, as the store manager had asked, according to the police report.

On pump No. 1, the employee noticed something attached to the credit card machine. The employee immediately stopped anyone from using the pump by putting a plastic bag over it and reported the issue to the fueling systems company. An employee found that the pump did have a skimming device and said that the gas pump needs a universal key to unlock the credit card machine, which is easy to get, according to the report. The gas station planned to turn over surveillance video of the pumps to investigators.

The skimmers are placed inside the credit card machine, so gas pumps do not look different on first glance. Typically, only one gas pump at each gas station has a skimmer, Franklin Police Department spokesman Lt. Kerry Atwood said.

But the devices can be noticeable.

Some gas stations are choosing to put tape over the door where employees fix or replace the credit card machine, Atwood said. If the tape looks broken or moved, customers should move to a different pump, he said.

People also can lightly shake the machine to see if it is loose, according to a news release from credit reporting agency TransUnion.

Customers can use a credit card, use their debit card as a credit card or pay with cash, Greenwood Police Department Assistant Chief Matt Fillenwarth said.

When you use a debit or bank card, your PIN also may be copied through the skimmers, he said. But by using it as a credit card, thieves could access your card information but not the PIN, Fillenwarth said.

Customers also can ask their bank to turn on safety alerts, such as getting notified if your card is used out of state, Fillenwarth said.

Also be wary of anyone lurking around ATM machines, since that could be an indicator that a skimmer is in the device and someone is watching to get the information, Cox said.

If you notice money stolen from your account, report the incident to police, officials said.

How to protect yourself

Credit card skimmers have been discovered at two Johnson County gas stations in the past month. The devices typically are hidden in the machine, so it is harder for customers to detect. Here are some tips on how to protect yourself from having your credit card information stolen:

  • Pay inside, with either cash or a credit card.
  • Take an extra 15 seconds to look at the gas pump to note if anything is unusual or off about the pump. If something looks odd, notify a gas station employee.
  • Some stations are placing tape over the gas pumps where people could gain access to the credit card machines. If the tape is broken or looks like it’s been moved, notify a gas station attendant.
  • If you pay with a debit card at the gas pump, charge it as a credit card so you don’t have to enter your PIN. Some skimmer machines can also copy your PIN number.
  • Be on the look out at ATMs, since skimmers also can be installed there. Be aware of others around you.

SOURCES: Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Greenwood Police Department, Franklin Police Department