In an effort to help thwart thieves and keep drivers from falling victim to credit and debit card abuse, Douglass Distributing hosted a card-skimmer -awareness seminar in Sherman Tuesday.

The event focused on identification and prevention tips for the general public and law enforcement and was jointly presented by Petroleum Solutions, Inc. Douglass Distributing Dealer Division Intern Spencer Stovall said the fuel provider and its stations have seen an increase in the number of skimmers found as the summer travel season gets under way.

“We’ve seen a a slight rise in other locations, but it’s starting to pop up in the Grayson County area more and we want to get the word out,” Stovall said.

Sherman Police Sgt. Brett Mullen said while card skimming is largely a sporadic crime, those who commit it target machines that people frequently use, like gas pumps and ATMs, and are using more sophisticated technology than they did previously.

“Before, these kinds of suspects would usually attach a device to the exterior of the machine or insert it inside the card slot,” Mullen said. “Now, we see them accessing the interior of the pumps to attache the device. They’ll often collect them at a later date, but we’ve also seen ones with Bluetooth, so they can transfer the information from the machine without opening it or removing the device. They’re getting inventive, so people need to be aware.”

Mullen said the illegal practice is considered effective, because victims rarely know they’ve been affected until fraudulent charges appear. The Police lieutenant said identifying and arresting such card thieves is possible, but it depends on what they do with the stolen numbers.

“If they use it themselves and locally, it’s easier to track down,” Mullen said. “If they use it in a different jurisdiction, we will still forward it to the law enforcement agency with the jurisdiction there to investigate it, but numbers that are obtained are often times sold to other parties, so it can reach from across the country to across the world.”

Stovall said Douglass’s stations are regularly reminded to place tamper-evident security seals on their machines and to conduct regular checks of machine interiors, but both he and Mullen encouraged drivers and customers to examine their pumps and card slots for anything unusual.

“If there’s anything odd or suspicious about the machine, don’t use,” Mullen said. “Notify the gas station employees there or call the police department and let us investigate it. And if you find fraudulent charges on your card, please keep a record of those and bring us what documentation you can to help us pursue it.”

Drew Smith is the crime and emergency reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at