Most credit card skimmers recovered in Houston, $50 million of fraud prevented

A new financial crime-fighting unit in Texas says it prevented nearly $50 million dollars of fraud in its first year.  

The Financial Crimes Intelligence Center has been cracking down on credit card skimming and reports Houston is the hardest hit city, finding twice as many skimmers here than any other city in Texas.

Credit card skimming has been around for a while. You may have seen skimmers placed over the credit card readers that steal your credit card information when you swipe your card.

Now, the FCIC says there are "skimmers," thin metal devices inserted inside the card reader that are very hard to see.

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The FCIC, a partnership of the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation and the Smith County District Attorney's Office, reports finding 396 credit card skimmers and more than 200 suspects. They found the most skimmers in Houston, at 51.

"That’s primarily because a large number of criminals or groups that are committing these crimes live in the Harris County area," said FCIC Director and Chief Investigator Adam Colby.

Colby says they're still finding skimmers on gas pumps, either inside the unit, over the top of the credit card reader, or a thin metal "shimmer" inserted inside the card reader.

"They’re reading the magnetic stripe on the card, so that’s how they’re getting your information," explained Colby.

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But it's not just gas stations. Investigators are finding skimmers and cameras on ATMs, too.

"They’re using pinhole cameras to capture your inputs on the pin pad. So I always feel around the edges looking for any kind of small camera," said Colby.

He says skimmers are placed on point-of-sale terminals in grocery and convenience stores, stealing not only credit card information but SNAP/EBT benefits from people who need them most.

Skimmers are getting harder to spot, but signs to look for include trouble inserting your card, a camera over the pin pad, keys that feel spongy to press, or are covered in plastic.

Colby recommends choosing gas pumps that take chip cards and let you insert the card horizontally rather than vertically.


"On the pin pad, is it metallic? Are the numbers raised, as opposed to the old flat membrane? On the card reader, if the card is going in flat. Then it’s EMV compliant. If it's going in sideways, then it's not," said Colby.  

Colby says the best way to protect yourself is to use a chip card, which are encrypted, and tap-to-pay, because the card is not inserted. Also, be sure to check your credit card statements monthly.

People who suspect problems with their Lone Star Card can cancel the card and get a new one by calling 800-777-7328. Credit card skimmers can be reported at (800) 436-6184 or the Inspector General website.