Gas Station in Mexico City
ATMs and gas stations have become a favorite target for identity thieves angling for customers' credit card information. Reuters/Edgard Garrido

Police in Redlands, California have deployed GPS technology to arrest suspected members of a crime ring that stole payment card information from gas pumps. News of the simple investigative technique comes weeks after a report that international card skimming is on the decline, even if profits from identity theft are climbing.

Skimmers are placed onto gas pumps and steal customers' debit card information until the thieves return to retrieve their device. Instead of putting physical surveillance at area gas stations police deployed GPS on suspect pumps, then followed the signal when it was taken from the pump and moved throughout the area. The technology has been used in at least 139 arrests for a variety of crimes, according to a new report from cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs.

“Unlike ATM skimmers, skimming devices attached to gas pumps are impossible for the average customer to spot because the skimmers are not stuck to the outside of the machine, but rather hidden inside after thieves gain access to the pump's insides,” Krebs wrote.

“I wouldn't worry too much about pump skimmers, unless you're accustomed to paying for fuel with a debit card: Having your checking account emptied of cash while your bank sorts out of the situation can be a hassle and create secondary problems (bounced checks, for instance). Use a credit card instead,” said Krebs.