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Minnesota Commerce Department launches statewide sweep to crack down on credit card skimmers at gas pumps

3/9/2016 10:53:34 AM

BLOOMINGTON – During National Consumer Protection Week, Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman announced the launch of a new statewide crackdown on the threat of credit card skimmers hidden in pumps at gas stations throughout Minnesota.

Rothman made the announcement at Bobby & Steve’s Auto World in Bloomington, where alert employees recently caught three men who were trying to install a skimmer in a gas pump.

The Commerce Department’s Weights & Measures and Enforcement divisions will be conducting Minnesota’s first-ever inspection sweep of gas stations across the state to protect consumers against skimmers. The department is also starting an outreach and education campaign with gas station operators to help protect their customers.

“The Commerce Department is determined to prevent and halt this emerging threat to Minnesota consumers,” said Rothman. “We are taking steps to make sure pumps are secure and customers’ credit and debit card information is safe from criminals.”

A credit card skimmer is a small electronic device that can be attached to or hidden inside a gas pump or ATM. The device secretly records customers’ credit and debit card information, which criminals can then use to commit fraud and identity theft.

Credit card skimmers hidden in gas pumps have been a growing problem in other parts of the country and have begun to appear in Minnesota. Earlier this year, skimmers were found in pumps at two stations in Minneapolis and Robbinsdale, and three men were arrested at the Bobby & Steve’s station in Bloomington after being caught trying to install a skimmer.

Rothman said that, beginning this week, Commerce Department inspectors and investigators will be examining gas pumps statewide for skimmers.

In addition to checking retail gas pumps for accuracy, safety and fuel quality, the agency’s Weights & Measures inspectors will now also look for card skimmers and any signs of tampering at pumps as part of their inspection protocol.

Rothman said that, if a skimmer is found, the Commerce Fraud Bureau will pursue a criminal investigation in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies.

The Commerce Department is also starting an outreach and education campaign with station operators, encouraging them to take extra steps to secure their pumps and regularly check them for skimmers and signs of tampering. The department is providing guidance to stations on how to deter people from installing skimmers, how to identify the devices and what to do if one is found.

In addition, the department plans a consumer education initiative with the message “See Something, Say Something” to encourage Minnesotans to notify station employees or the Commerce Department if they see someone tampering with a gas pump or anything suspicious at a pump.

Rothman offers the following tips to Minnesotans to help guard against credit card skimmer fraud:

Spot skimmers at the pump

  • Look before you swipe. Jiggle the card reader and check the keypad. Is it raised or loose? Inspect the pump for any signs of forced entry, including broken security tape, tool marks or scratches that may indicate tampering. 
  • Any pump could contain a skimmer. Pumps at the outer edges of a station 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.

Protect your plastic

  • Pay with cash or a card inside. Or select credit instead of debit on the pump. If you 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 your bank account.
  • Monitor your bank and credit card accounts. Carefully review your statements and immediately report irregularities to your financial institution or credit card company. There is a limited time period to report fraud to avoid liability for unauthorized charges.

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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