The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio recently announced the indictment of twelve people alleged to have installed skimmers at gas pumps in Ohio, Colorado, Maryland and Utah in order to steal credit card information used to create phony credit cards with which they made fraudulent purchases.
Skimmers are small electronic devices that are easily installed by an identity thief on gas pumps, ATMs and other card reading devices. The skimmer steals all of the information from old style magnetic strip credit card or debit cards which then enables the identity thief to use that information to access the victim’s bank account when the skimmer is used on a debit card. If a credit card is used, the identity thief can use the stolen information to access the victim’s credit card account. Each skimmer can hold information on as many as 2,400 cards.
MasterCard and Visa announced in December of 2016 that the deadline for the installation of EMV chip card readers on gas pumps was being delayed three years to October 1, 2020. Credit card rules required EMV smart chip credit card equipment be installed by retailers to process these cards by October 1, 2015 in order for the retailer to avoid liability. Wider implementation of the use of EMV chip cards at retailers has resulted in a dramatic reduction in data breaches and credit card fraud at retailers using this equipment. The deadline for the installation of EMV chip card readers at gas pumps was originally scheduled for October 1, 2017. Around the country there has been an increase in the use of skimmers installed by criminals at gas pumps.
Always look for signs of tampering on any machine you use to swipe your credit card or debit card. If the card inserting mechanism appears loose or in any other way tampered, don’t use it. Debit cards, when compromised through a skimmer put the customers at risk of having the bank accounts tied to their cards entirely emptied if the theft is not promptly reported and even if the victim reports the theft immediately, the victim loses access to his or her bank account while the matter is investigated by the bank. Debit cards should not be used for purchases at gas pumps or for other retail purchases because the legal liability laws related to stolen debit card information are not as protective to consumers as the laws relating to fraudulent credit card use.