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Minnesota Commerce Department alerts consumers and gas stations about card skimmers; offers tips to prevent identity theft and fraud

1/28/2016 2:13:29 PM

SAINT PAUL – Law enforcement and Weights & Measures inspectors across the country are receiving a growing number of reports about credit card skimmers at gas pumps. While there have only been isolated incidents found in the state, the Minnesota Department of Commerce warns consumers to be on the lookout for these devices that can be used to commit identity theft and fraud.

“Commerce, as the state’s consumer protection agency, is investigating and responding to this emerging threat,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “It’s important for both consumers and gas station operators to be vigilant.”

Credit card skimmers are small electronic devices that can be attached to credit card readers or hidden inside gas pumps to collect and transmit a customer’s credit and debit card data to criminals, who sell or use the information to commit identity theft.      

Gas station operators can help protect their customers from identity theft and fraud caused by skimmers by taking extra steps to secure their pumps and regularly inspecting them for any signs of tampering.

Consumers can also alert gas station operators of suspicious activity or signs of tampering at a pump. Commerce offers the following tips to Minnesotans to help guard against credit card skimmer fraud:

Spot skimmers at the pump 

  • Look before you swipe.  Inspect the card reader and pump for any signs of forced entry, including broken security seals, tool marks, loose materials, scratches where someone may have tampered with the pump or anything else that is suspicious.
  • Any pump could contain a skimmer. Pumps at the outer edges of the perimeter are the easiest places to install skimmers without being seen by the attendant. But pumps close to the station get the heaviest traffic and criminals may take a risk to get a bigger payoff. 
  • See something, say something. If you notice any irregularities (especially someone who is not a station employee or an inspector who is opening up a pump), alert the station attendant or call the Minnesota Department of Commerce Weight & Measures Division at 651-539-1555 or Consumer Services Center at 651-539-1600 or 800-657-3602 (Greater Minnesota-only).

Protect your plastic

  • Pay with cash or a card inside. Or select credit instead of debit on the pump. If you do use a debit card, never type in your PIN at the pump. Using your credit card will limit your liability to $50, while stolen debit card information can give the thief direct access to the actual money in your bank account.
  • Check your bank accounts and credit card statements regularly and immediately report irregularities to your financial institution or credit/debit card company. There is a limited time period for you report fraud without any liability on your part.

Commerce is here to help

If you have questions or concerns about possible fraud or identity theft, contact the Commerce Department’s Consumer Services Center by email at consumer.protection@state.mn.us or by phone at 651-539-1600 or 800-657-3602 (Greater Minnesota).

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