EFFINGHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - The Federal Trade Commission ranks Georgia second in the country for consumer fraud in 2017.
The FTC said it received 96,316 consumer reports of fraud from Georgia in 2017 - or 924 per 100,000 state residents.
Much of the fraud in the Coastal Empire comes from card skimming at gas stations. Effingham County made a large bust recently recovering more than $1,000,000. The Effingham Sheriff's Office says with today's technology, the crime is easy but the criminal is hard to catch.
"This money, once it gets into the fraudster's hands, it can be transferred to any kind of card, and it's difficult to track it down," says Sgt. John Bradley of the Effingham Sheriff's Office. "As long as it has a magnetic strip on it, they can take this card and use it anywhere."
These scammers can use credit cards, gift cards, or even a hotel room key to hijack anything they can. The worst part is it might take weeks, months, if ever, to find out you've been conned. In Effingham County, the scammers favorite target is a gas pump. They install skimmers that swipe your information every time you swipe your card. The sheriff's office says there is a defense against this scam. The Apple and Android store has several applications that are free to download and can see what you can't.
The highest-rated free application in the GooglePlay store is named Skimmer Scanner. The Apple App Store has less options, but iOS users can find an app named Card Skimmer Locator there.
"Pull up to a gas station, turn this program on, and it will tell you if there is a skimmer present," Sgt. Bradley said.
They say if there's any red flag, give them a call straight away.
"If they use this application and it does show a skimmer, notify law enforcement immediately. That way, we can get to the card skimmer and get it removed," Sgt. Bradley said.
Law enforcement officers also say they recently invested in a mobile card swiper to help detect fraud. What the rest of us need to understand is that convenience can be costly if you're not keeping track. They advise to always check your credit and debit card statements before paying them. If something doesn't look right, call your credit card company or bank and challenge it.