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State Agriculture Department On The Hunt For "Skimmers"

Josh James

Kentucky inspectors are on the lookout for thieves known as “skimmers," who prey on unsuspecting drivers filling up their tanks.

Most drivers don’t give it a second thought when swiping their credit cards at the pump, but it’s possible for identity thieves to rig small devices known as skimmers to the machines – which silently gather credit card data.

"The devices we've seen hold anywhere from 50 to 500, depending on the size of the internal memory. Banks notify us. The best figures we've got is an active skimmer found by law enforcement usually runs between  $15,000 and $30,000 in fraud," says Officer Mike Helsby with the Lexington Police Department.

To help crack down on the practice, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture has started checking for skimmers during their routine gas pump inspections this summer. But Commissioner Ryan Quarles says consumers can play a roll too.

"I encourage Kentuckians to be on the lookout for tampered locks, doors on gas pumps that may have been pried open, and also look at the integrity of security tape, which is often attached to the panel sections of gas pumps," he adds.

Quarles says about six have been found in Kentucky in the last two years, with one skimmer recently busted in Lexington. So far none have been discovered during the Agriculture Department's first round of summer inspections.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.