Your phone's Bluetooth can locate illegal skimmer devices

By Jeff Tavss - Executive Producer
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MIAMI - As more and more skimmers are discovered at ATMs and gas stations, police say a simple way to beat crooks from taking your money is in the palm of your hand.

Skimmers are devices criminals attach to debit or credit card readers that allow others to steal your personal information.

Millions have been stolen from unsuspecting customers who use ATM's or card readers at gas stations.

However, officials say the Bluetooth on your phone can uncover the nefarious devices looking to steal from your wallet.

Simply go to the settings on your smartphone and click on Bluetooth. If a skimmer is present, a long string of numbers and/or letters will appear, attempting to connect you to the device.

Now that the illegal device has been located, make sure you do not connect your phone.

The Federal Trade Commission has additional tips to help consumers avoid skimmers:

  • Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. 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.
  • Take a good look at the card reader itself. Does it look different than other readers at the station? For example, the card reader on the left has a skimmer attached; the reader on the right doesn’t.
  • If you use a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of entering a PIN. That way, the PIN is safe and the money isn’t deducted immediately from your account. If that’s not an option, cover your hand when entering your PIN. Scammers sometimes use tiny pinhole cameras, situated above the keypad area, to record PIN entries.
  • Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges.
  • If you're really concerned about skimmers, you can pay inside rather than at the pump. Another option is to use a gas pump near the front of the store. Thieves may target gas pumps that are harder for the attendant to see.

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