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Groves sees more gas card skimmers

GROVES — More reports of gas card skimmers have been made at the Valero/Circle K store on Twin City Highway in Groves adding to a statewide and nationwide issue.

The skimmers have been reported to police at least seven times since January at this location — with the most recent reports coming on May 20 and May 30. Other reports were made Jan. 26, Feb. 28, March 18 and March 28.

Groves City Marshal Norman Reynolds Jr. is aware of the situation and a detective and a federal agency are investigating.

Reynolds said they learn about the situation when the victim realizes their credit card has been compromised. A bank statement may show the problem but not necessarily where their information was stolen.

He said they have had quite a few victims, with Valero gas cards compromised and the person reporting the crime used their card at that location.

Groves Police Department has confiscated the skimmers after receiving the call, he said.

Port Arthur resident Jody Holton has been paying for gas with cash inside the store since April 10 — she has had her Valero card replaced four times since August — due to skimmers. In fact, she said, she was told by her bank that anyone who used a Valero card within six months of a skimmer being found is issued a new card.

“I go to the Valero station every week to 10 days and check the pumps on the side that I park on; there is always at least one pump that has voided security stickers. Each time, I go inside and report this to the clerk on duty. I have been told, ‘Oh it’s nothing,’ ‘Oh someone must have left the door to the pump open,’ or just ‘Oh, I’ll look at it,’” Holton said.

After some phone calls, she said, she learned Valero only sells the gas there; Circle K owns the station. Holton said she was told by someone in Circle K corporate office that they are aware and the problem is the old-styled gas pumps that are easily compromised and that the station is on the list to have the pumps replaced.

She also said she heard from a marketing manager who was also apologetic about the issue.

The manager at the Groves location was unable to speak with The Port Arthur News and referred news media to the corporate office Wednesday. The News attempted to contact the corporate offices on Tuesday and Wednesday but calls were not returned.

It seems as if the Groves location is the only local one with the gas card skimmer issue. Police in Port Arthur, Nederland and Port Neches reported no such issues recently.

A detective with the Port Arthur Police Department said they had not had any cases in the past month or so but still get cases.

The mechanics

Skimmers being used today are more advanced than the previous versions, where a customer could physically check to see if there was a removable face where the credit cards inserts.

The type of skimmers being used at the Groves location requires the thief to unscrew a part of the front panel to the pump to place the skimmer in.

“They go to the next level to stay ahead of law enforcement,” said Maddison Juareguito with the Texas Department of Agriculture.

So far this year, 86 skimmers have been found statewide with 454 complaints made to the Texas Department of Agriculture, which is also responsible for inspecting and regulating gas pumps.

In 2018 there were 60 skimmers found and 755 complaints received while in 2017 there were 39 skimmers found and 777 complains made.

The TDA did receive a report in April of a skimmer at the Groves location but no skimmer was found, according to the TDA.

Texas and beyond

A look at recent headlines shows:

  • 12NewsNow reported on March 15 that 10 skimmers had been found in one year at a Circle K station on Interstate 10 and Texas 62.
  • KHOU 11 in Houston reported on April 8 that six skimmers were found at a gas station in northeast Houston.
  • KBTX-TV in Bryan, Texas reported on June 10 that two devices were found on Valero gas station pumps at a convenience store.
  • In May, a Cuban crime ring was busted in Arizona that reportedly stole credit and debit cards from possibly hundreds of people at gas stations across metro Phoenix. Suspects were accused of printing stolen numbers onto fake cards to buy fuel to sell on the black market. The crime ring is linked to Florida-based Cuban organized crime, according to a story on azcentra.com