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.