Training to guard against credit, debit card 'skimmers' - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Training to guard against credit, debit card 'skimmers'

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Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 5:30 pm | Updated: 4:54 pm, Tue Oct 12, 2010.

State officials are trying to crack down on “skimmers’’ that steal information off of consumers’ credit and debit cards.

But they admit there’s probably nothing customers can do to prevent it. And the administration isn’t ready to push for one possible solution.

The Department of Weights and Measures began training Wednesday for law enforcement, private security and gasoline company officials to teach them how to spot the devices and ways to prevent them from being installed.

Agency director Kevin Tyne said the most immediate problem is that these skimmers are not readily visible. Instead, they are usually installed inside a machine, something his inspectors occasionally find inside gasoline pumps when they go out and inspect them.

Tyne said they get inside because keys for these pumps are available on the black market. Armed with such a key, a thief can covertly install the skimmers out of sight.

And that, Tyne conceded, makes it pretty much impossible for a customer, inserting a card to fill up the tank, to tell whether the numbers are being copied and made available for thieves to “clone’’ their cards.

“Unless the consumer can see the dispenser may have been tampered with or something of that nature, the best thing that a consumer can do is be watching their credit card statements and making sure that they are cognizant of their amounts in their accounts,’’ Tyne said.

There is one relative low-tech solution: Anti-tampering tape. This is a special tape which cannot be peeled away without showing signs that it had been removed.

The QuikTrip Corp. uses its own version on its pumps. Tyne acknowledged that a consumer seeking torn tape might be on notice that it might be better to gas up somewhere else.

But Paul Senseman, press aide to Gov. Jan Brewer, said his boss is not ready to ask for such a legislative mandate.

“It may ultimately be helpful,’’ he said. Senseman said, though, that Brewer would prefer to wait to hear from others -- including the owners of the gas stations -- about what they prefer.

There also is a question of effectiveness.

Shawn Marquez, the agency’s director of compliance programs, said the kind of tape some stations now use voluntarily probably is easily duplicated. That would allow a skimmer to simply replace a torn label with a new, albeit unauthorized, seal.

More problematic, Marquez said, is keeping up with the system.

He said station personnel have to open a pump every time one runs out of the paper for receipts. Marquez said there would have to be some sort of procedures to ensure that the employees install new tape each time so as not to put customers in fear that a pump has a skimmer inside.

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