You can use your phone to protect yourself against credit card skimmers

Image courtesy of WFLA

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Gas station skimmers have been a rampant problem throughout the country. Many customers have been ripped off without even realizing it.

But experts say your smartphone may be a vital tool to stop this threat.

Crooks quickly and illegally install little devices on gas pumps or ATMs to steal your hard-earned money. State officials say each skimming device can claim about 100 victims, including people like Oscar Acosta.

A few months ago, his bank account information was stolen and he lost nearly $2,000.

“You feel violated, frustrated, you know, because you just having to figure out and cover those transactions,” said Acosta.

Many of these crooks use Bluetooth technology to access those skimmers, but there may be a way to thwart their efforts by using your phone.

Experts say you can use your phone to scan for Bluetooth signals. There’s also the “Skimmer Scanner” app for Android phones that can do it too.

Officials say skimming devices typically broadcast over Bluetooth with the code “HC-05.”

Experts recommend you use your phone to look for that code or for a Bluetooth signal with a long list of numbers.

“If you see it, it’s certainly an indication that there’s something that might be malicious and nefarious,” said cyber security expert Jeff Birnbach with Sylint Group.

Birnbach stresses that you still should use other tactics to protect yourself.

“There’s a lot of things that will put out Bluetooth in a gas station environment, your phone, your car, a lot of things,” he said.

Birnbach also adds that crooks could change the name of the Bluetooth skimmer so it doesn’t show the code HC-05.

In addition to scanning for Bluetooth signals, Birnbach suggests that you still closely examine your gas pump or just avoid using your credit card entirely.

“Cash is still king, it still works,” said Birnbach.