Credit card holders in Greater Houston are more likely to have their information stolen than people anywhere else in the US, according to payment processing firm Wex. Local police and prosecutors are cracking down on the crime, but they face steep odds.
Anyone who uses ATMs or buys gas at the pump, is vulnerable to skimmers. The devices can be attached to the card readers and steal the card number off the magnetic strip. They’re nearly impossible to spot once installed.
“A Secret Service agent brought in a federal defendant who was awaiting going to federal prison for taking part in skimming. And he did a demonstration with a gas pump of how long it would take him to put in a skimmer, and he did it in 30 seconds while he was telling us what he was doing,” said Assistant District Attorney Robert Buss of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office’s financial crimes division.
Gangs that use skimmers are loosely organized and are generally unraveled only when a member is caught with multiple stolen identities. Buss said the best defense against skimmers is to regularly check your card statements for suspicious purchases.