Credit and debit card users are being warned to be extra-careful when punching in their passwords and using their cards at gas pumps, to reduce the threat of fraud from skimmers.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey issued the warning after 20 reported ATM skimmer thefts since January. In the incidents, tiny cameras over the ATM's own card-reading cameras allows thieves to get a look at credit and debit card numbers and their PINs.

"Recording those numbers enables thieves to create new cards and potentially steal thousands of dollars from the accounts of ATM users," Carey said.

Ther are 4 steps to preventing fraud on your account according to Carey, who recommends:

  • Placing one hand over the ATM to prevent thieves from being able to see the numbers on the card and PIN numbers as they are entered into an ATM.
  • Avoiding unfamiliar ATMs and units that are not well-supervised, such as those located in the rear of convenience stores, or ATMs with sidewalk access outside of banks
  • Using cash for gas purchaes  "since skimmers have been placed at gas pumps and could remain undetected by gas station employees and customers."
  • Swiping a card quickly if you do use a card and getting it back from the attendant as the tank is filled.

If you do detect tampering at an ATM or gas pump, Carey said, you should report it immediately to police.

"Those who realize their card information has been stolen should alert their banks and credit card companies immediately, cancel the card and request a new one, and flag the stolen card to prevent further thefts," Carey said.

Sign up for the Newsletter

Get the best of delivered to your inbox every day.