Watch out for this con next time you pay at the pump or use an ATM

Georgetown County authorities are warning the public to be on guard against credit card skimmer devices, which have been found at self-service terminals like at gas pumps or ATMs.

The credit card skimmer is a false credit card portal that attaches to the front or on top of legitimate scanners and steals data from a card’s magnetic strips when the cards are used, according to a release from the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office.

“Dozens of the devices have been found in Horry and Charleston counties during the past month, so it stands to reason we should expect to be seeing them soon,” said Hank Carrison, an investigator with the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office in the release.

He also offered these safety tips:

“When fueling vehicles at Georgetown County gas stations, please take a moment to examine the credit card reader on your pump. Citizens can protect themselves by being observant. Compare the credit card reader on a gas pump to the ones at other pumps. Are there any differences (shape, size, flashing LED’s or other features?) Does any part of the reader wiggle if touched, as if it is not securely attached or an integral part of the machine? Also whenever possible, if your card is equipped with an EMV (microchip), use it instead of swiping the magnetic strip if the retailer provides that option.”

These information stealing gadgets have become cheaper and more sophisticated over the years, according to authorities, and some capture card information using a magnetic reader and a mini camera to record users typing a PIN number. Other cons have included placing a secondary keypad over the actual keypad, and the false one steals PIN numbers and records them while passing input into the real keypad, police said.

Most skimmers are designed to be temporarily attached to an ATM or gas pump and can be easily retrieved by thieves once they’ve stolen information, authorities said.

Police also recommend choosing a credit option over a debit option at a gas pump so you can avoid entering your PIN.

Anyone who suspects their has been card skimmed should monitor their account balance and report any suspicious activity immediately, authorities said.