What are ‘Bluetooth skimmers’ and how can you protect yourself?


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – We’re learning disturbing new information about a skimmer found inside a south Wichita gas pump.

Police say it happened Tuesday at the Circle K in the 2300 block of South Seneca. But that device wasn’t the typical skimmer we see.

This one transmitted debit and credit card data via Bluetooth, making it easier for thieves to steal your personal information. KSN talked to financial and tech experts to find out how you can protect yourself.

It’s the swipe you may not realize is taking your data.

“I don’t think a lot of times that you think about it especially when you’re using a card you often don’t think about the money you’re spending,” said Krista Weaver, Haysville.

And the crime you hear about that may make you more cautious.

“It makes me want to cover up the pin pad when I’m putting my pin in so I don’t get scammed and check my statements,” said Steven Langwell, Wichita.

Tuesday, Wichita police discovered a skimmer on a gas pump.

But it’s not just any old skimmer — the Bluetooth enabled device can access peoples’ data within a certain distance of it, without taking it out of a machine.

“Can watch it on our phone as the information comes through and capture it all kinds of different things. So you have to be in range to get the information but they’re pretty popular because it’s instant,” said Bill Ramsey, technology expert.

So how do you protect yourself? Ramsey says one way, is actually by using a technology we keep close by – your cell phone – and connect to Bluetooth.

“If something comes up with a long string of numbers usually then what you’re seeing is a skimmer that’s very close by,” said Ramsey.

Damon Ellsworth with Emprise Bank also says keeping an eye on finances helps.

“Access your online banking, your mobile banking, look for transaction activity that looks atypical and report that right away,” said Damon Ellsworth, VP Payments Manager Emprise Bank.

Wichita police say they are looking at surveillance video to investigate Tuesday’s incident but don’t have a time frame yet, so anyone with information is encouraged to contact them.

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