NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — New technology created at the University of North Texas's Cyber Forensics Lab may help retailers and police track down credit card skimmers stealing private information from millions of consumers.
The devices are often hidden inside gas station pumps, which can be easily accessible to thieves.
"This problem is on the rise," said Dr Scott Belshaw, who runs the lab. "There's probably not a person out there that hasn't been scammed by one of these things."
Belshaw has been working with the Denton Police Department and discovered one major obstacle to rooting out skimmers.
They're not easy to spot, he says, even when someone is looking right at them.
"A lot of gas station owners don't know what it looks like inside their machines," he said.
So, Belshaw designed a device or "wand" which police and gas stations can use to determine if there may be a skimmer inside a particular pump. The university is now finalizing a deal to license the tech to a Richardson company to manufacture and sell it.
"It detects signals. It detects electronics. It detects some of the software," said Belshaw. "It'll tell you if there's activity going on in your gas pump that's suspicious."
Denton Police Financial Crimes Det. Brandon Hobon says the tool has the potential to aid investigations.
"Law enforcement doesn't always know what the technology looks like," Hobon said.
Making it easier to track down skimmers will allow detectives to identify and reach victims more quickly.
"We want victims to know their card numbers have been compromised, " said Hobon.
The university says eventually the technology could become available to consumers, who want to check the integrity of a machine before swiping their credit card.
"It's hurting the consumer. It's hurting the public. It's hurting banks. Everybody," Belshaw said. "We're all paying for it one way or another."
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