ANTHEM,  AZ (3TV/CBS5) - It's a crime Megan Johansen never saw coming.

One minute, she was pumping her SUV up with gas, the next, someone was clearing out her bank account.

"They did a small $100 charge at Walmart first, then they did several more in Scottsdale," said Johansen. "Then, they moved to Nevada and started charging up a storm there."

[WATCH: Skimmer devices found on gas pumps]

The Anthem mom is one of more than a dozen reported victims of credit card fraud connected to a Circle K gas station off I-17 and Daisy Mountain Drive.

According to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, credit card skimmers were found on at least two pumps.

"It's pretty bad," said Todd Watts, who lives in Anthem. "It's very frustrating knowing we're a small town up here, and that it's happening, and its happening quite a bit."

Skimming devices often hard to spot.

Crooks will break into a gas pump and attach them inside.

When a customer swipes their credit or debit card, their pin information and card number are transferred via Bluetooth to the thief's computer or smartphone.

So far this year, Arizona's Department of Weights and Measures has removed at least 80 skimmers across the state, but there are believed to be many more out there.

Johansen had about $2,000 stolen out of her account, that she's still trying to get back.

Her fear now is - it could happen again.

"I wont use a debit at a gas station again," said Johansen.  "Definitely not."

Here is a list of the top 10 ways to avoid becoming the victim of a skimmer, according to Arizona's Dept. of Weights and Measures:

1. Inspect the fuel dispenser before you use it. Be suspicious of loose or damaged equipment or access panels on the dispenser as this may indicate signs of forced entry. If a retailer uses adhesive security seals, make sure that they are not voided or broken.

2. Wiggle the exterior of the credit card reader slot before you insert your card into the machine (this tip also applies to ATMs). If any part of the card reader comes loose, do not use the fuel dispenser and notify site employees and Weights and Measures immediately.

3. Ask site employees about security measures that they have in place to protect against skimmers (e.g. does the station check for skimmers daily, have alarm systems installed in dispensers, etc.).

4. If you use a debit card at a fuel dispenser, run the card as credit to prevent having to enter your PIN number. Some skimmers have the ability to capture PIN numbers, which could allow a criminal to withdraw funds from your bank account.

5. Make fuel purchases at the register inside of the convenience store (if available) instead of at the dispenser. If possible, make fuel purchases with cash instead of a credit or debit card. If you wish to pay at the dispenser, use a card with a low credit limit solely for fuel purchases.

6. Use dispensers in well-lit areas that are positioned in view of site employees.

7. Watch out for large vehicles such as SUVs, trucks, and vans that park in front of fuel dispensers for long periods of time. Criminals have been known to use large vehicles to block the view of the dispenser from site employees while they install a skimming device.

8. Watch out for people using electronic devices such as computers or tablets that may be sitting in vehicles near a fuel dispensing site. Some skimmers have been known to have Bluetooth capability, which allows criminals to download information from a skimming device when they are in range of the Bluetooth signal.

9. Trust your instincts! If something does not seem right, do not use the dispenser and report your concerns to site employees, law enforcement, and/or Weights and Measures.

10. Consumers should frequently monitor bank and credit card statements to ensure all transactions are correct. If someone accesses or uses your account information without your permission, contact your financial institution and alert your local police department. For more information on reporting fraudulent credit, ATM, and debit cards as well and how to protect yourself from fraud visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website

Jason Barry is best known for his Dirty Dining Report which airs Fridays at 6:30 p.m. on CBS 5.  He is also the storyteller behind CBS 5's Pay It Forward which airs every Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
 
 


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