The next time you use your credit or debit card at an automated gas station, or anywhere else that doesn't require a teller or clerk to oversee your transaction, you MAY be getting scammed by a skimmer.

Hermiston Police now report a network of what are called 'skimmers' have been discovered at automated bank teller machines and gas stations have taken thousands of dollars from several hundred victims.

One type of skimmer seen on ATM machines (Better Business Bureau)
One type of skimmer seen on ATM machines (Better Business Bureau)

Since early May, dozens of people reported to police they found their bank accounts had been emptied or unauthorized withdrawals made by criminals who appear to be working in the Portland area.

A skimmer is a card swiping device that resembles the ones you see on gas pumps, and in stores, except that they're usually slightly larger and bulkier.  They're installed over the top or sometimes in place of a normal card swiping device.

When a customer swipes their card, their account and personal data, including their PIN, are sent to a scammer who could be hundreds of miles away. That person then uses the personal data to steal from your account!

Things to look for when using automated teller machines and gas pumps especially, are:

*Does the swiper device look crooked or stick out more than usual?

*Does it appear to have been tampered with? Many businesses, such as Costco, have bright red or other colored tape across the edges of where the card swiping unit is bolted to the gas pump. IF that tape is broken, don't use the machine.

*Do you see extra wires or equipment sticking out on the side or behind the gas pump?

If anything looks suspicious, you can also gently tug on the swiper itself. In many cases, these scam swiping devices will easily pop off. Notify the clerk or attendant and the police immediately. Some skimmer machines come with a small camera that's mounted where it can look over the shoulder of the person making the transaction, allowing the scammer to see them punch in their PIN number.

As was the case in Hermiston, usually these scammers will remove the swiping machines even within a few hours of installation, depending upon how many people's identity they've stolen.

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