MANDEVILLE, LA (WVUE) - Stopping to get gas. It's a harmless thing to do, but whether drivers know it or not, cyber thieves count on them using a debit or credit card.
"No, never had any encounter with it," said Adera Hocut, as she pumped gas along Tulane Avenue.
She is fortunate. Every day, many are victimized, having their financial and personal information stolen just because they made a purchase at a gas station, or other business with a credit or debit card.
According to Bureau of Justice statistics, 17.6 million Americans 16 or older were victims of identity theft in 2014 and 86 percent of the victims experienced misuse of a credit card or bank account. It is the reason dozens of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers from the gathered for training on the north shore Tuesday.
"We all use credit cards and so they're very prevalent in unexpected places like gas station pumps, ATMs, any point-of-sale terminal," said Paige Hanson, of LifeLock, Inc., which was a presenter during the summit.
Skimmers make stealing information easy. Sometimes they are overlays placed on the tops of where consumers insert their cards. Other times they are hidden inside point-of-sale terminals, and sometimes unsavory employees carry them around.
"You often hand over your card to a waiter, or waitress, they may be gone for five or 10 minutes. It really takes seconds to swipe a card," said Hanson.
She used expired credit cards to demonstrate for law officers how quickly skimmers access and transmit information via computer.
The training summit was hosted by the Mandeville Police Department, which handles its share of cases.
"We'll get rings and we'll discover it, you know, two months into it, you know, after dozens and dozens of victims have been compromised and have had their accounts basically pilfered," said Mandeville Police Capt. Gerald Sticker.
"It's really a cat and mouse game because as soon as we develop methods to investigate the methods that are used, then new methods are being employed to steal people's identity and financial information," said Mark Sullivan of FBI-LEEDA, an independent organization which offers training for law enforcement.
He agrees the technology gives crooks a lot of help.
"It's very easy to conceal these methods, and these devices," said Sullivan.
Skimmers are getting smaller and less expensive.
"I'm definitely not encouraging anybody to buy them online, but you can get them for as cheap as $20 bucks," said Hanson.
She advises everyone to monitor their accounts and make sure their financial institutions provide alerts of suspicious activity.
"Don't just assume everything okay, every little charge, including the ones that are 15-cents could potentially be a fraudulent charge," Hanson stated.