Everyone knows that their credit card information could be stolen in one way or the other, but thieves are upping the ante by using a technique called skimming and targeting locations people are forced to visit.

Going to the ATM and withdrawing money or pumping gas for your car are daily obligations, but the public may be at risk.

So far, two skimming incidents in Ellensburg and one in Cle Elum have been confirmed this summer.

“Skimming right now is a very popular thing that goes on and it happens in Ellensburg quite often,” Ellensburg Police Department Captain Dan Hansberry said. “But like every community, it’ll come in waves.”

According to Hansberry, EPD started to see the first skimmers making their rounds five years ago in Ellensburg on a more frequent basis.

Credit card skimmer devices are installed inside gas pumps or ATMs and steal your credit card information when you swipe your card. Part of the issue that makes credit card skimming difficult to track is the fact that it is innocuous until people start seeing suspicious charges on their bank statement.

In fact, Hansberry said some criminals don’t even have to come back to the scene of the crime to retrieve the skimming device to obtain your credit card info, but rather can do it remotely.


The device is small and unless someone noticed tampering of some sorts it’s easy to have the device go undetected, Hansberry said.

“When I use an ATM or a gas pump I grab that card reader and I pull on it and yank on it to see if it moves, because it should be solid,” Hansberry said. “If it moves or slides or you can pull it right off that’s going to be a telltale sign that that’s probably a skimmer.”

Hansberry said you should pull on the slider part of the card reader and it should be tight.

“Make sure that nothing looks weird or out of place … duct tape or any added-on piece glued onto the side of an ATM screen,” he said.

Hansberry said the people who likely are responsible for the skimmer devices in Ellensburg are people making their routes and passing through the town.

“We know for a fact skimmers that have been in Ellensburg have also been in other parts of the state because we have footage of their cars as they put the devices in so we know that they’re traveling throughout the state,” Hansberry said.

One trend, although Hansberry said there haven’t been arrests for it in Ellensburg, is some skimmers to buy large quantities of gas to resell to other gas stations.

“We have so many farmers in this town that are filling up, you know if you drove by and saw somebody with a flatbed truck or truck with the fuel tank in the back you don’t give it a second thought in this town because farmers still do that to this day,” Hansberry said.

A couple hundred gallons of fuel can be a quick resell and can leave people out of thousands of dollars.

Hansberry said the best way to protect yourself from a skimming attack is if it seems like a sketchy pump or an uncertain ATM find a new location and report it to the business and police. The other option is to go directly inside the gas station to pay or go to your bank and skip the ATM.


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