Evansville police on Tuesday found a credit card skimmer inside a gas pump, and they've issued tips for consumers who may have had their bank accounts compromised as a result of using the gas pump.

The device, which was stealthily fixed to a payment terminal and only discovered after a well-trained employee inspected the pump, is used to take data from the magnetic strip of a debit or credit card. Thieves use skimmers to clone cards or steal money from bank accounts.

Skimmers can go undetected in normal use, and are rarely spotted by a casual glance.

In the wake of Tuesday's discovery, the Evansville Police Department has a number of tips for consumers.

  1. Checking your statements regularly can help you catch any abnormal charges. When you receive your statements, you should go through each of the transactions and verify that you made all of the charges. If you see any abnormal or repeat charges, then you should contact your bank immediately to inquire about the charge and report it as theft, if necessary.

  2. Given the near-invisibility of the devices, it might not be possible to totally avoid a skimming scam. Still, consumers can take several steps to protect their cards at fueling stations. Among the options:
  • Pay inside, with cash or a credit card, rather than at the pump. Chances are good that thieves have not entered the physical building to tamper with the pump.
  • Be suspicious if the gas pump has a broken security seal, or the word "void" appears on it. These are part of a voluntary program by the industry to thwart gas pump tampering.
  • Choose pumps closest to the physical building, not the ones hidden around the corner.
  • Use a credit card, not debit card, when you pay. If a credit card number is skimmed, you're playing with the bank's money and protected by the card's zero-liability policy. A stolen debit card number could yield far worse damage.
  • Pay attention when fueling and if it feels weird, don't do it. Sometimes, thieves also swap out the card readers attached to the skimmers. In those cases, they can deliver an unusual feeling to the inserted card -- it may stick or otherwise feel not quite right. If that happens, cancel the transaction and pay inside.