Credit and debit card skimmers secretly attached to gas pumps are an increasingly common scourge throughout the United States. But the tables can be turned when these fraud devices are discovered, as evidenced by one California police department that has eschewed costly and time-consuming stakeouts in favor of affixing GPS tracking devices to the skimmers and then waiting for thieves to come collect their bounty.
One morning last year the Redlands, Calif. police department received a call about a skimming device that was found attached to a local gas pump. This wasn’t the first call of the day about such a discovery, but Redlands police didn’t exactly have time to stake out the compromised pumps. Instead, they attached a specially-made GPS tracking device to the pump skimmer.
At around 5 a.m. the next morning, a computer screen at the Redlands PD indicated that the compromised skimming device was on the move. The GPS device that the cops had hidden inside the skimmer was beaconing its location every six seconds, and the police were quickly able to determine that the skimmer was heading down a highway adjacent to the gas station and traveling at more than 50 MPH. Using handheld radios to pinpoint the exact location of the tracker, the police were able to locate the suspects, who were caught with several other devices implicating them in an organized crime ring.
This story in October 2014 the U.S. Justice Department‘s “COPS Office” indicates that the Redlands PD has taken the lead in using GPS technology to solve a variety of crimes, and had credited the technology with helping secure at least 139 arrests. Continue reading →