IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — The credit card in your wallet may be handy to you, but it’s also handy to crooks who want to steal your information.
State inspectors on Tuesday afternoon found two skimming devices inside two pumps at a gas station in the 200 block of 76th Street near US-131 in Byron Township. The skimmers have previously been found in Cass County and elsewhere in Kent County, and then in Shiawassee County, between Lansing and Flint.
When hidden inside gas pumps, the skimmers can collect card information from anyone who fills up and pays at the pump.
In Ionia, investigators from two law enforcement agencies are trying to determine how crooks got away with credit card numbers from as many as 20 customers who went to an Admiral gas station near the intersection of State and Tuttle roads.
“I didn’t discover it until Monday,” Sue Figel told 24 Hour News 8 on Tuesday.
Just days after she bought $20 in gas as the station, a trip to the drug store ended with a rude awakening.
“I had to go to Walgreens for my husband to get some of his stuff, and my debit card, it would not accept,” she said.
Scammers had drained the Figel’s account. While the bank covered the loss, dealing with the situation was a stressful.
“I’m very thankful that my bank put all of that money back in for me. It took me a couple days. I’m retired and I need every dime I have,” Figel said.
She’s not alone.
“Between us and what the state police have taken, I’d estimate somewhere close to 20 victims at least that we know of so far,” Ionia County Sheriff Dale Miller said.
While the case is being handled by the sheriff’s department, the city of Ionia Department of Public Safety put an alert out on its Facebook page and several victims shared their stories.
But in the Ionia case, state inspectors came up empty when they checked the gas station for skimmers on Monday. Investigators are working off the theory that they were removed before the pumps were checked.
“It’s my understanding that it’s relatively easy to place them and to remove them. It’s just as quick, and simple. Open up the front of the gas pump or whatever device you’re talking about, snap them in and it’s just as quick to take them out,” Sheriff Miller said.
There are other similarities between the Ionia case and others throughout the state. The compromised pumps were those closest to the street, making it harder for a clerk to see anyone tamper with the pump panels. And most stations hit by skimmers aren’t open at night.
Sheriff’s department investigators will sit down with Michigan State Police Wednesday to compare notes.
“We’ll get together, share reports, share information that we have, information that the victims have been able to provide us allowing us to hopefully resolve this,” Miller said.
Victims like Sue Figel hope they can put a stop to a crime that’s tough to defend against.
“I’m upset because the people who are doing this, they need to get out and find a job,” she said.
If you notice anything unusual on your credit card statement and think your information may have been compromised by a skimmer, you can call police or the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Weights and Measures Division at 517.655.8202.