On July 30, an assistant manager at the Circle K, 2513 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach notified police that he had about 30 dissatisfied customers on his hands.
It soon became apparent that someone had secretly placed an illegal credit-card skimming device in one of the store’s automated fuel-dispensing system — the self-pay gas pump. Bogus charges began showing up almost immediately on customers’ accounts and it didn’t take long for them to figure out exactly where their cards had been compromised.
When Bradenton Beach police responded to investigate, they found and removed a “skimming cable” that had been installed in one of the fuel pumps.
Janice and Billy Dingman of Bradenton Beach reported false charges made in Hudson, Florida, to their bank, then to the BBPD.
Janice Dingman said her husband purchased gas at the targeted Circle K and they suspected an illegal skimmer was used there.
“He doesn’t make that many purchases,” Janice Dingman, a staff member at The Islander said. “And he keeps his gas receipts,” so the couple filed a police report.
BBPD took precautions to avoid contaminating the evidence and are hopeful that they may be able to pull fingerprints of the culprit who somehow got the pump open and installed the skimmer. Video from several security cameras also is being reviewed and, apparently, installing the skimmer would take enough time that cameras would reveal someone loitering around the pump without pumping gas.
Though the station manager told police that only he and the company that maintains the fuel pumps have the key needed to get inside the pump, police note that crooks are getting their hands on these keys somehow, possibly via the Internet.
Asked how customers can protect themselves against this crime, these tips were offered:
• Most obvious deterrent is to pay in cash.
• Take the time to take your card inside to prepay rather than using it at the pump.
• Look closely at the pump for signs of tampering, forced access, unaligned edges.
• Choose pumps in clear view of security cameras. As was true in this case, crooks often tamper with pumps on the outer perimeter of the station out of site of cameras and other people. (Outer pumps also are more easily isolated and blocked from view with a well-placed SUV, van, or truck.)
• One “locking the barn door” type tip: keep a close eye on your bank and credit card statements, online if possible, so that if someone does get your numbers you can cut them off quickly from using your credit.
BBPD and Circle K continue reviewing possible clues in hopes of identifying the person or persons who committed this crime.