Arizona state government officials, responding to a recent uptick of incidents, are stepping up efforts to thwart criminals who steal consumers' credit and debit card information at gasoline pumps.
Now Colorado law enforcement agencies also are seeing a rash of such incidents, known as skimming.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer last month directed the state's Department of Weights and Measures to increase inspections of gasoline-pump payment terminals, and the agency is asking gas station operators and consumers to report suspect devices and activities.
The move responds to an increase in reports of card-skimming devices found in the payment terminals of gas pumps in Maricopa, Yuma and Kingman counties in Arizona, said Shawn Marquez, the director of the department's compliance programs.
Within the past six months the agency has received about three dozen calls from law enforcement departments around Arizona reporting the discovery of tiny devices measuring about two inches long and apparently attached to gas-pump payment terminals to capture customers' card data. Criminals use the skimmed data from the cards' magnetic stripes to create counterfeit cards.
"This year we began to receive more calls than usual about card-skimming devices, and we are taking action now to educate and warn consumers and gas station owners," Marquez said.
This year the Weights and Measures Department plans to increase the frequency of pump inspections and will increase training in detecting card skimmers for its officers, he said.
Colorado law enforcement agencies reported a rise in card-skimming incidents at gas stations around the state beginning in June. A representative of the Colorado Springs Police Department said that in at least one case criminals used card numbers skimmed locally to make fraudulent purchases in California.
Though card-skimming activity is sporadic, gas-pump payment terminals remain a magnet for this type of crime, according to Jose Diaz, director of technical and strategic business development at Thales e-Security Inc.
"Card skimming is one of the simplest ways to counterfeit cards, but fraudsters are continually making use of increasingly sophisticated technology to skim card data at the point of sale," Diaz said, noting that even savvy fraud experts have difficulty staying ahead of criminals perpetrating these frauds.
"Gas stations are particularly vulnerable because they are typically unattended, and fraudsters have wide-open access to them," he said.