NEW PORT RICHEY — Over the past several weeks, deputies say, criminals used skimmers to snag more than 300 credit cards from pumps at Hess Gas Stations around the Tampa Bay area.
Detectives first started investigating skimmers in Pasco County when they were found Feb. 28 at the Hess at Regency Park Boulevard and Ridge Road in Port Richey.
The skimmer didn't work, though, and instead shut down the machine. A manager inspecting the shutdown pump found the skimmer and called deputies. No credit card numbers were gathered.
They found another skimmer at a Hess Station on Mile Stretch Drive and U.S. 19 in Holiday. The skimmer collected eight or nine numbers before an attendant found it, said Detective Bruce Cohen of the Pasco sheriff's economic crimes unit.
On Saturday, devices were found on pumps No. 4 and No. 20 at the station, 28232 S.R. 54 in Wesley Chapel. Between the two, 337 credit card numbers were gathered.
No arrests have been made.
These skimmers don't attach to the credit card sliding mechanism on the outside of the pump, like you might have heard.
That's old technology, Cohen said.
New skimmers go inside the pump and connect to a wire on the card reader.
Usually thieves manage to get a skeleton key to unlock pumps at several gas stations.
After the skimmer has had time to gather information from several hundred credit cards, the thieves retrieve it and download the information to begin making fraudulent purchases.
Because detectives found these skimmers still attached to the machines, and the skimmers do not appear to have remote transmitters, Cohen says it's likely thieves weren't able to get the credit card information.
On Feb. 18, Hernando deputies found four skimmers on pumps at a Hess Station in Brooksville.
Cohen said investigators are looking at skimmers that have been found at gas stations in Largo and Palm Harbor. He believes these cases may be related.
He said customers of Hess stations in the area should check bank accounts frequently over the next several days to make sure fraudulent purchases aren't being made.