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How you can use your phone's Bluetooth to protect you from skimming devices

The U.S. Secret Service estimates skimmers cost you and other businesses $8 billion every year, but you can easily protect yourself. (U.S. Government)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) - They're small, hidden from sight, and ready to drain your bank account.

The U.S. Secret Service estimates skimmers cost you and other businesses $8 billion every year, but you can easily protect yourself.

"I went to the ATM to make a deposit and my balance shows up on the side. I noticed it was drastically off," said Leah Jennings, a skimmer victim whose account was drained. "I keep the banking app on my phone, so I logged on to my phone and saw three transactions that were the exact same amount that were withdrawals - that's when I contacted the bank."

Skimmers can go weeks undetected, stealing credit card information from more than 50 people a day from anywhere, including ATMs and gas pumps - anywhere you can slide your card.

"It changes constantly. It's all the time," said Daryl Burgess, president of Quik-E Foods. "It's not just these things inside pumps - people put covers over the tops of these, cameras above them."

Burgess is the president of 14 Quick-E foods in the area.

He's also been a victim of a skimmer.

"We opened the gas pump and found this thing dangling around inside our gas pump, it's a skimmer," he said.

Burgess learned the ins and outs of skimmers to protect his customers and his business.

"Customers that are buying gas should look for the sealed tape across the door because a skimmer like this wouldn't be inside here," he said.

Another way you can protect your pocketbook at the pump is with your cellphone.

Since credit card skimmers use Bluetooth technology to transmit your information, try to connect to Bluetooth when you are at the pump.

If you see a long line of numbers, experts say the pump is probably bad news; Burgess suggests you also pay attention to what happens when you swipe.

RELATED | How to spot a gas pump skimmer

"What I have found is, when a customer's credit card doesn't work and they say, 'What's wrong with my card?' that's been the most identifying clue for us," he said. If you know your credit card is good and it says 'See attendant,' it wouldn't hurt that evening to call that 800 number and change your credit card."

Jennings might not have caught the skimmer but she acted fast when she realized she was a victim.

"They froze my account, my card, started an investigation and reimbursed my money in five business days," she said. "I found out the guy was from out of town, he put the skimmer here, made all these bank cards and had taken withdrawals out in the Raleigh-Durham area."

Also, the companies that make gas station pumps are building them so they no longer have an easy-to-access cabinet door.

To get inside, you'd have to swing open the whole front of the machine, which is hard to do without being seen.

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