Battle Against Skimmers Extended by 3 Years Due to Deadline Delay

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The deadline for retailers to install chip readers on gas pumps has been delayed to October 2020. The National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) recognizes that already-strained weights and measures inspection programs will need to continue allocating resources another 3 years as they cooperate with law enforcement to spot credit card skimmers.

Credit Card Skimmer in Gas Pump

Credit Card Skimmer found in Gas Pump by Weights and Measures Official

The skimmers can be here today and gone tomorrow, so it is a difficult battle to fight.

A deadline delay of three years for gas pumps to be equipped with chip-card readers means the battle against credit card skimmers will be extended for weights and measures officials who are cooperating in the effort to spot them. The original deadline of October 2017 has been delayed by Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. to October 2020 in response to concerns by the industry that the expensive upgrades could not be completed that quickly.

Credit card skimmers are installed in gas pumps without the retailer’s knowledge and are used to steal consumers’ credit and debit card information when they pay at the pump. Since weights and measures officials are already inspecting gas pumps, many have been called upon to assist law enforcement by identifying skimmers in the course of their inspections.

Some weights and measures agencies have canvassed their jurisdictions specifically to look for skimmers. Others have incorporated steps in their routine inspections to look for the devices. The delayed deadline has in-effect extended the need for these resources through October 2020. In some cases, those resources are already stretched very thin.

In January 2016, the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) held a training session for weights and measures agencies from across the nation to prepare them for this effort. Presenters included top officials from Florida and Michigan where inspectors were already active in these investigations. Officers from the FBI and Secret Service also provided valuable training at this event.

The Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) reports that the commonly cited average cost per dispenser of $10,000 doesn't mean much to the individual store owner. “In a given case, the actual cost depends on a whole host of variables,” said Rick Long, PEI General Manager. Among those variables he cited:

  • Can the existing dispensers be upgraded or must they be replaced?
  • Are dispenser media packages or other manufacturer or brand incentives available to offset some cost?
  • Will the station have to break concrete to install new cabling to achieve the higher bandwidth requirements?

Long added, “Depending on how those (and other) questions are answered, an owner's total cost per dispenser could be anywhere from $4,000 or so to as much as $20,000.”

NCWM Chair Kristin Macey of the California Division of Measurement Standards reported that, even with these increased efforts and subsequent arrests, the crimes continue. “We continue to hear from state and county weights and measures agencies across the country of more skimmers being found. The skimmers can be here today and gone tomorrow, so it is a difficult battle to fight.”

Macey said consumers can protect themselves from skimmer fraud by paying inside the store instead of at the pump. If they do pay at the pump, the pumps within eyesight of the store attendant are less likely to have skimmers installed. “There are no guarantees,” she added. “If you are paying with plastic, you need to monitor transactions on your statements and report unauthorized purchases immediately to your card issuer.”

The National Conference on Weights and Measures is a professional nonprofit association of state and local weights and measures officials, federal agencies, manufacturers, retailers and consumers. NCWM has developed national weights and measures standards since 1905. The organization brings the right interests together to keep pace with innovative advancements in the marketplace.

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Don Onwiler
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