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Secret Service Cracks Down on Skimmers

Operation Deep Impact uncovers dozens of devices at gas stations
Photograph: Shutterstock

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Secret Service found nearly 200 skimming devices on gas pumps at convenience stores and gas stations as part of its Operation Deep Impact initiative.

The operation, which kicked off around the recent Thanksgiving holiday, examined the gas pumps at more than 400 fueling sites in 16 states. The agency timed the operation for the holiday to blunt the efforts of criminals who would be targeting gas stations because of the record-breaking travel expected that week. AAA had projected Thanksgiving 2018 automobile travel to hit a 13-year high, with 48.5 million travelers expected to take to the road.

The Secret Service launched Operation Deep Impact with an alert to fuel companies and state and local law enforcement across the United States. It included technical information to help identify and handle skimmers on gas pumps, protocols for collecting evidence and best practices for investigating skimming operations.

This marks the Secret Service’s fourth and what it considers its most successful holiday anti-skimming operation in 2018. The agency estimates that is has prevented $6 million in losses to consumers. The Secret Service also conducted skimmer crackdowns around the 2018 Independence Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays.

In November, 10 people were sentenced to up to 81 months of prison for helping install skimmers on gas pumps in at least five states, including in Ohio, Colorado, Maryland and Utah, with many at fueling sites in northeast Ohio. The criminals traveled from Florida to install the skimmers, with some distracting the gas-station employee while others installed the devices. The incidents occurred from August 2014 to July 2017. After stealing customers’ credit and debit card information, the criminals re-encoded it onto counterfeit credits cards, which they used to buy gift cards and merchandise in Ohio and other states.

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