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State Looking to Protect Drivers from "Skimming" at Gas Pumps

With the Fourth of July and peak summer travel season around the corner, state and local authorities are working with retailers to prevent thieves from stealing consumers' data at motor fuel pumps, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles announced Monday.

"This form of identity theft, known as card skimming, is exploding around the world," Quarles said at a news conference. "Losses due to skimming are expected to exceed $3 billion globally this year. Kentucky Department of Agriculture inspectors are on the lookout for evidence of skimming to protect Kentucky consumers and businesses."

The KDA is charged with the task of inspecting motor fuel pumps in every retail establishment in the Commonwealth once a year. KDA inspectors test pumps to ensure that the amount of fuel dispensed matches the amount shown on the pump, and check to make sure pumps are in proper working order.

As part of the inspection, they look for signs that a pump has been compromised by thieves who install electronic devices called "skimmers" that capture data from consumers' credit cards. The data is used to produce fake credit cards and make fraudulent charges on the victim's account. Inspectors shut down any pump that may have been tampered with and report the incident to law enforcement authorities.

Jason Glass, assistant director of the KDA's Division of Regulation and Inspection, said card readers on fuel pumps are especially susceptible to tampering because pumps often are located out of sight of an attendant.

Glass said retailers are taking action to prevent credit card skimming by installing proprietary locks on pumps, using security tape to seal the pumps, and logging the numbers on the tape to make sure the seal hasn't been broken and replaced. Some pumps shut down when they are entered unlawfully, Glass said. Credit card companies are deploying technology to make credit cards harder to skim, he said.

Glass said consumers can help themselves by looking for signs that a pump has been tampered with, such as locks that appear to have been compromised, doors that may have been pried open, and security tape that is broken or doesn't adhere to the pump.

Consumers may report suspected tampering to the retailer, law enforcement, or the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. To submit a report to the KDA, call (502) 573-0282 or email [email protected]. Include the retailer's name and location, the pump number, and the fuel grade.

-Staff report

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