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Hidden credit card skimmers rip off Carmel residents

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CARMEL, Ind. (Nov. 4, 2015) -  Carmel Police are warning residents who pay at the pump to watch out for a new scheme involving credit card skimmers.

Police are investigating a handful of cases where victims have reported fraudulent charges on their bank accounts. One victim told FOX59 someone stole her debit card number after buying gas at a Carmel station.

“They told me my card was declined and I had hundreds of dollars in my account," the victim said.

She said she found charges for  $500 and $400. Police said it's likely the thieves bought gift cards using her card number. The new skimmers are so sophisticated, you don't even know you're being targeted.

Lt. Joe Bickel with Carmel Police said the thieves are placing skimmers inside the gas pumps. They're likely targeting stations that don't have surveillance cameras or close early. He said they'll break into the pumps late at night.

“The suspects are utilizing some type of key to open the gas pump. They are inserting the credit card skimmer and then then they’re coming back at a later time and trying to retrieve that data," Lt. Bickel said.

Carmel Police retrieved a skimmer from one gas station. It's small and compact. Lt. Bickel said it only takes seconds for thieves to install the skimmers inside the pumps. Once they get your credit card information, the suspects will make a card with your number on it to purchase gift cards or electronics.

"It’s a process. It’s not an immediate thing. It may take several weeks for that to happen," said Lt. Bickel.

Police said they have an idea of what the suspects may look like. They believe the group is working together to install the skimmers and create new credit cards.

Lt. Bickel said the new chips on credit and debit cards are designed to prevent things like this from happening. The problem is, he said, is that many businesses don't have chip readers.

“Most gas stations do not, especially out at the gas pumps," he said.

Police said there's not much you can do to protect yourself ahead of time. They do have advice for people if it does happen to them. Police said to check your bank statements regularly, and call both your credit card company and police if it happens to you. Lt. Bickel said many people may have not called police and expect more victims to come forward.

Police have also been talking to gas station owners and employees about checking their gas pumps more frequently to ensure people don't become victims.