The Skimmer Problem
What is a Skimmer?
Credit card skimming devices can be used to steal credit and debit card numbers as well as PIN numbers for the purpose of identity theft. They are electronic devices that connect onto a credit card reader and record the data of cards swiped at a card machine. These devices often have Bluetooth capability, allowing identity thieves to access the private data from a distance of up to 100 yards.
Why Gas Pumps?
Gas pumps are particularly vulnerable to credit card skimmers. Gas pumps are outside, often away from station employees and watching eyes. Many gas pumps have generic locks, so they can be easily accessed by criminals that use a generic key. Once a gas pump is open, a criminal can install a skimmer on a gas pump in as little as 30 seconds. These factors make gas pumps easier to access than other skimmer targets like ATM's or credit card readers at stores.
Credit card companies Europay, Mastercard and Visa have extended the deadline to October 2020 for gas stations to upgrade their pumps with chip-readers. The widespread use of chip-readers would curtail this crime. With the continued use of magnetic-strip readers at gas pumps for the foreseeable future, the skimming crime in Ohio won't end anytime soon.
History of Skimmers in Ohio
The first gas pump skimmers found in Ohio were discovered by Auditor Keith and his inspectors in Montgomery County in August 2013. Shortly thereafter, skimmer findings escalated. Since October 2015, at least 75 credit card skimmers have been found in Ohio gas pumps. The skimming crime is becoming increasingly prevalent and has spread across the state, reaching 25 counties. Skimmers have been reported on gaps pumps in all four corners of the state, but are most prevalent here in Southwest Ohio.
County Weights and Measures inspectors have been hard at work inspecting gas pumps throughout the state, but pumps become vulnerable again as soon as the inspectors leave. To raise awareness of the issue, Auditor Keith has hosted nine "Skimmer Summits" across the state to draw attention to the dangers of gas pump skimmers and teach prevention measures to gas station owners and interested individuals. Since 2016, Auditor Keith and county auditors across Ohio have hosted multiple statewide skimmer sweeps, inspecting thousands of gas pumps at a time.
Spot anything suspicious? Contact our Weights and Measures Consumer Hotline at 937-225-6309.