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The Hot Springs Police Department released a video PSA on social media Friday showing the public how to use a phone's Bluetooth settings to possibly detect skimming devices on gasoline pumps.

Skimmers were discovered Thursday hidden inside two gas pumps at the Valero station at 1201 Central Ave. by a technician performing routine maintenance. Hot Springs police Officer 1st Class Joey Williams, who is featured in the video, said Friday that officers are checking other stations in the city for the devices, which are used to steal credit and debit card data.

In the video, Williams explains how to use a cellphone equipped with Bluetooth to detect the skimmers. Bluetooth is a wireless way of transmitting data over a short distance, such as between a cellphone and a headset or a car's audio system.

Williams said to navigate to the phone's Bluetooth settings and look for "discoverable" devices. The skimmers generally show up as a random string of characters or letters, he said.

While the devices discovered on Thursday were internal, Williams said some fit over the pump's existing card reader, and are easily removed.

Williams also noted in the video that "on a lot of pumps a security tape is used" and that customers should check to make sure the tape has not been voided. "If it has, that's another clue that the pump could be compromised," he said.

According to consumer information provided by the Federal Trade Commission on its website, "Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel. This is part of a voluntary program by the industry to thwart gas pump tampering. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read 'void,' which means the machine has been tampered with."

The site also suggests entering a debit card as a credit card, instead of entering a PIN. "That way, the PIN is safe and the money is not deducted immediately from your account."

The safest method, though, is to pay inside rather than at the pump. Another option is to use a pump near the front of the store, the site said, noting, "Thieves target gas pumps that are harder for the attendant to see."

Williams said in the video, "If you think you've been a victim, monitor your credit and debit accounts. If you do see any strange activity, contact Hot Springs police and make a report."

Federal law limits an individual's liability if their credit, ATM, or debit card is lost or stolen, but their liability may depend on how quickly they report the loss or theft, the FTC website states.

Local on 01/20/2018

Print Headline: Police, FTC offer tips on avoiding credit skimmers

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