After years of investigating, Louisville police and federal agents captured eight people suspected of skimming credit card information from gas stations in the city.
The arrests were made after the individuals stole more than $3.5 million through skimmed card information.
U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman said Friday the FBI, Secret Service, Louisville Metro Police and nearly 30 other law enforcement agencies collaborated to investigate card skimming after victims contacted the FBI in 2015.
Coleman said the suspects struck Ohio and Indiana, but were locally based and used 50 skimmers to compromise 7,000 cards from residents in Louisville. Some skimmers were located at Highway 42 in Prospect, Taylorsville Road, Bardstown Road, Saint Andrews Church Road, Galeen Drive, Shelbyville Road and LaGrange Road.
LMPD Chief Steve Conrad said credit card theft costs the nation millions each year.
“At least one member of our community will fall victim to this kind of credit card theft and credit card fraud each and every day,” Conrad said. “We will have an opportunity to address this problem despite the increases in technology that make it hard for us to investigate.”
One of those changes in technology is Bluetooth, which has created an obstacle for investigators. After traditional skimmers are installed, the devices must be collected in order for criminals to gather the stolen credit card info. Surveillance footage from gas stations helped authorities apprehend the eight suspects in Louisville’s case.
But FBI Special Agent Amy Hess said Bluetooth skimmers are becoming more popular, allowing thieves to gather skimmers’ credit card info from far away. That, Hess said, makes it harder to find suspects.
“The less exposure, then the less opportunity we have to identify and capture these individuals,” Hess said. She estimates that Bluetooth skimmers can transfer data from up to 350 feet away.
“That’s outside of the line of sight of the surveillance cameras, and that poses a problem to us,” she said.
To safeguard info, authorities suggest residents pay inside or with cash, look for missing, broken or loose security tape, cover your PIN when using a debit card, and stay in sight of cameras and store clerks.
U.S. Attorney Coleman warned criminals who skim cards will “become intimately familiar” with the prison system, and he expects more convictions going forward in the ongoing investigation.
The eight suspects in Louisville’s case were charged with aggravated identity theft, wire fraud and other charges. Three have been sentenced, three plead guilty and await sentencing, and two will go to trial this January.
All face at least two years in jail with no parole through the federal system.