PINE BELT (WDAM) - Card skimmers are continuing to be a problem in the Pine Belt, and law enforcement agencies are urging everyone to be cautious.
The devices are mostly targeting gas pumps, and those found on Monday at a Hub City gas station were confirmed as card skimmers.
But, at least one ATM at a Hub City bank has been hit by a skimming device.
"Once they put it on there, they don't have to retrieve it, they can remotely get the information, download it from inside the pump and then that's where they do the damage because they clone the cards," Lamar County Sheriff Danny Rigel said.
Rigel said it is a crime that is easy for crooks to commit, and it is hard to track from a law enforcement standpoint.
"It's very easy to get in to the actual control panel of the pump, it takes a matter of seconds to get in," Rigel said. "Clip something in, clip something out, or clip something off the pump, clip their thing in and close it."
Some tactics being used are targeting the pumps far from the view of a cashier or surveillance camera, or just simply stalling while acting like you are getting gas.
"It can look like they're just checking the cost of the gasoline, looking for a wallet or something while they're pumping, and then the pump has been compromised," Rigel said.
According to Hattiesburg Police Lt. Jon Traxler, it has not just been gas pumps that have been compromised.
"We have had a bank here in Hattiesburg that did actually find a device on one of their ATMs, and they contacted us immediately," Traxler said.
If you are using an ATM, be sure that you shake and pull on the place where you insert the card. If it seems tampered with or comes off, contact authorities.
The skimmers, depending on the card type used, can get a variety of information.
"If you use a credit card, any information that you punch in to the key pad is actually being recorded as well as the card information so that they can use that to duplicate the card," Traxler said. "If you use a debit card, then it does get your pin number so they can ultimately go to the bank and use it at an ATM machine and be able to get out however much your bank allows in one day."
Rigel said, "It's scary when you think they would have to go back to the actual pump, take the data out and then utilize it, but they can do it remotely though the internet or through cell phones. The scary part is with technology, people are going to invent something one day, and somebody's going to invent something the next day to defeat it, so it's a never-ending thing, and that's why law enforcement has to stay abreast of current technology."
He said store owners need to be more responsible in checking their pumps, as well as taking measures to check for skimming devices.
"They need to inform their staff of what skimmers are and what they look like, they need to be checking the pumps multiple times a day and using security labels to add an extra layer of security to the pumps," Rigel said.
Things like paying with cash or paying inside with a credit card are ways to keep from falling victim.
Traxler added if you are a victim, there are a few steps you can take.
"First thing, they need to contact their financial institution and have it stopped, whether it's a credit card or debit card it doesn't matter, call and have it shut off immediately and then contact us and tell us where it's been used at," Traxler said.
Local, state and federal agencies are involved in the joint investigation and working the multiple reports of the card skimmers in and around the Pine Belt.
If you have any information, contact your local law enforcement agency.