Protecting consumers at the pump

Numerous law enforcement agencies, along with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), are ramping up inspections and warning drivers statewide after credit card skimmers were found at a mid-Michigan gas station in recent months.

According to MDARD, approximately 70 credit card skimmers have been found and removed from gas pumps in Michigan since 2015.

Criminals typically hide these devices inside of gas pumps and use them to scan and copy the customer’s credit and debit information. Most pumps have a universal master key that criminals can easily obtain, allowing them entry to install the device. Electronic skimmers can be installed in a matter of seconds, allowing criminals to get in and out quickly, then return later to retrieve the stolen information.

Thieves also use plastic covers that resemble the credit card slot on a gas pump. They are designed to fit over the credit card machine and read a user’s card information as the card is scanned. Law enforcement agencies have grown wise to this and have developed a series of preemptive actions that can protect consumers.

To decrease the odds of becoming a victim to this scam, police recommend customers use a pump in plain view, or near the entrance of the gas station, as those pumps are less likely to be tampered with. Police also recommend patrons give the card reader a firm pull before inserting their card. Many in the industry consider this to be the best way to determine if a pump has been tampered with because if a pump has been hacked, you will likely be able to pull the whole unit out. If not, you will do no damage to the reader by pulling on it.

Technology is a good thing, as it often allows better management of our time and resources. However, as this issue is showing us, it can also be harmful. The state Senate is working to keep up with the ever-growing technological advances and the related schemes that thieves are using. In an effort to decrease the threat posed by credit card skimming devices, the state Senate recently approved legislation that would require all filling stations in Michigan to improve security measures at the pump.

Senate Bill 415 would allow filling stations the option of installing any of the following on individual pumps: tamper proof security tape with logo; a device to render the pump or scanning device inoperable with unauthorized access; encryption of credit card information; a new lock to replace the manufacturer’s lock; or any other security measure approved by MDARD.

In this day and age, consumers can never be too careful about protecting their identity. Many stations already have protective measures in place, but this bill would create uniform guidelines that filling stations across the state must adhere to.

SB 415 is currently before the Michigan House Commerce and Trade Committee.

Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, represents the 37th state Senate District, which includes Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Luce and Mackinac counties.




An essential upgrade

State Rep. Lee Chatfield and I recently toured the Soo Locks, inviting with us several fellow legislators to show them the inner workings of the locks and demonstrate the need for a new lock at the Sault Ste. Marie facility.

The locks, which were built between 1896 and 1943 and last upgraded in 1968, are vital to the national economy. Each year about 10,000 ships pass through the locks, carrying 80 million tons of iron ore, coal, grain, and other cargo.

Only one of the four current locks can accommodate the size of the massive freighters currently in operation. The MacArthur Lock can only accommodate vessels up to 800 feet, leaving the Poe Lock to handle the massive “lakers,” some of which are longer than 1,000 feet and over 100 feet wide.

A new “super-lock” that would replace the current Davis and Sabin locks was authorized by Congress in 1986 but has since been delayed due to a lack of federal funding. In 2009, funds were provided for preparatory work that built coffer dams at the ends of the Sabin Lock and to dredge the approach channels to the necessary 28.5-foot depth. However, nothing has been done since.

This places the burden of millions of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in commerce on one single lock. If a failure occurred, it would be an economic disaster for numerous industries throughout the U.S.

If the Poe Lock were to go down, there would be no other way for these massive ships to cross. The Lake Carriers’ Association predicts such a shutdown would affect Michigan’s economy so deeply that more than 22 percent of the state’s workers would become unemployed.

A recent study from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also outlined just how drastic the effects would be if the Poe Lock were to fail. A six-month shutdown would close factories across the U.S., resulting in an estimated 11 million jobs lost and sending the nation back into a recession. The amount of iron ore and grain removed from the North American supply chain would halt automobile and food production nationwide and have a negative impact on Canada and Mexico as well.

Though the Army Corps of Engineers is working to mitigate the risk of a shutdown, it has been nearly 50 years since the locks received a substantial upgrade. As the locks age, the probability of failure grows. We need to do more than continue to put Band-Aids on this issue.

Multiple Great Lakes states have approved resolutions urging the federal government to appropriate the necessary funds to upgrade the Sabin and Davis locks because of what a failure could mean for their economies and the entire U.S.

We do not need to continue to study this situation, and we do not need another cost-benefit analysis. Both industry and government officials agree that a failure will be catastrophic. Our state has fought hard to emerge from the recession and we simply cannot afford the risk of falling into another.

Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, represents the 37th state Senate District, which includes Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Luce and Mackinac counties.

Sen. Schmidt promotes annual Traverse City Sidewalk Sale, Michigan-made products

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, joined area residents, business owners, and tourists on Friday at the annual Traverse City Sidewalk Sale.

Every summer during the month of August, shops along the 100 and 200 blocks of Traverse City’s Front Street open their doors to display products and show off their best deals. The street is closed to traffic and the sales usually run from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“The annual sidewalk sale has been a staple of Traverse City summers since 1958,” Schmidt said. “It gives residents and tourists alike an opportunity to get out, enjoy good food and company and browse the streets filled with many made-in-Michigan products.”


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