- Denise G. Callahan Staff Writer
Adding extra inspectors to check Butler County fuel pumps for credit card skimmers is paying off, the county auditor told the Journal-News.
No skimmers have been found in Butler County in three months, Auditor Roger Reynolds said while visiting a Marathon gas station Thursday at Tylersville and Cincinnati-Dayton roads, where a skimmer was found around Memorial Day.
Five inspectors with the Butler County Auditor’s Office were among the nearly 90 statewide checking gas pumps Thursday for the illegal devices. Auditors in 61 Ohio counties were conducting a pre-holiday sweep of gas stations to search for skimmers that thieves use to steal credit and debit card information.
Skimming devices have been found in 15 Ohio counties since last October, mainly in the southwestern part of the state, including Butler and Hamilton counties.
Criminals use the technology to acquire personal financial information they need to drain citizens’ bank accounts and go on shopping sprees with other people’s money.
Butler County inspectors have checked 120 of the 130 gas stations in the county weekly for the past three months, Reynolds said. Ten of the county’s gas stations are secure because if the pump door is opened, it shuts the machine off.
“We’re going to do it until we have confidence that the criminals have moved out of Butler County,” Reynolds told the Journal-News. “And the good part is we’ve been doing this for 12 weeks now, every week, and we haven’t found a skimmer since June. So it tells me our efforts are paying off and the criminal element has moved out of Butler County. That’s our goal.”
Inspectors have targeted for examination 1,500 gas stations with more than 12,000 gas pumps, local officials said at a Thursday press conference.
“It’s not every day that 60-plus auditors pull together — across party lines — to fight crime in the interest of our constituents,” Reynolds said. “This is a big effort and I’m glad so many are participating in this skimmer sweep.”
Officials say increased traffic related to holiday travel increases the likelihood that thieves will try to hijack local gas pumps.
“A sure way to ruin your holiday weekend is to have your credit card skimmed and your identity stolen,” said Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith.
Starting on Wednesday, weights and measures inspectors across Ohio fanned out across local communities, opening gas pumps and checking credit card readers for signs of tampering.
Thieves can steal about $40,000 in a week off one skimmer, according to Tom Kamphaus of the Butler County Auditor’s Office.
Paramjit Singh, who works at the Marathon gas station in West Chester Twp., said more customers have chosen to go inside the store to pay rather than using pay-at-the-pump scanners.
“People are coming inside more,” he said. “After the skimmers, people are scared you know.”
West Chester Twp. resident Susan Wallet slipped her credit card into the pump to pay for gas on Thursday, but only after she inspected the device first.
“It’s dangerous carrying a lot of cash around too,” she said. “You have security with the credit card. If someone steals your credit card identity, you can report it and get that money back into your account. But with cash if someone comes and robs you that money is gone, so it’s a balancing system.”
This article contains additional reporting by staff writer Cornelius Frolik.