Organized crime rings are likely behind credit card skimmers found on local gas pumps, according to an investigator with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Frank Applegate told the Journal-News that the investigation seems to have revealed "a pattern with a group of Cubans that have been hitting the Ohio area as well as Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky."
"They’ve been coming up from Louisville, coming up from Texas, and hitting Ohio pretty hard, as well as surrounding states," Applegate said.
Skimmers have been found in seven Ohio counties, most recently on pumps in Mason and Franklin, the Journal-News reported. That was the first time they'd been found in Warren County. West Chester police recently removed another skimmer from the BP station on Union Centre Boulevard, and the devices were also found near the Tanger Outlets.
The scammers use stolen keys to open the pump case housing the credit card reader and install the skimmer device inside, making it difficult to detect. Then they can commit electronic identity theft by getting a hold of their victims' banking and credit card information.
Some stations are battling the fraud by changing their lock mechanisms on the pumps, according to Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds.
While paying cash is the only sure way to protect from identity fraud, there are steps that can be taken. Customers are encouraged to use gas pumps easily in view of the attendant and to never use a debit card when purchasing gas.
The Journal-News is a media partner of WCPO.