ALEXANDRIA, Va. — It’s in the headlines nearly every day with no signs of abating: gas station skimming.
This practice, involving criminals placing illegal devices on gas pumps in an effort to steal consumer credit cards and debit cards has reached epidemic levels, stressed panelists speaking Thursday during a webinar entitled “Combating Card Crime at the Fuel Island,” presented by Conexxus, an industry trade group that creates data exchange standards, advocates on behalf of the industry for equitable and open standards and practices, and more.
“Everyone is very concerned about skimming at the dispenser,” said moderator Kara Gunderson, POS manager for CITGO Petroleum Corp. “Florida found 103 skimmers in a three-month period. And it’s happening at convenience stores of all shapes and sizes. No c-store is exempt.”
Making matters worse, skimmers are difficult to detect, come in various shapes and sizes, and can damage a c-store operator’s reputation.
“They are also easy to get,” Gunderson said. “In fact, you can even find them for sale on eBay.”
C-store retailers looking to prevent skimming at the pump should start by training sales associates about what to look for an establish a standard policy companywide, noted Luke Grant, North America product manager for payment systems, Gilbarco Veeder-Root.
Here are some signs a gas station could be the subject of skimming, he said:
- Bad card reads;
- Dispenser “offline” messages;
- Vehicles parked at the gas station island for extended periods of time; and
- Unscheduled service technicians appearing at the pump. “Make sure all service technicians are scheduled and check IDs,” Grant stressed.
Grant added dispensers should be inspected daily for signs of forced entry and retailers should maintain a line of sight with the gas station island whenever possible. C-store operates should place further emphasis on this process if skimming has already occurred at other other local gas stations, as criminals tend to target a group of stores.
Although the EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) liability shift deadline will not occur until October 2017 at the forecourt, Grant suggested that upgrading dispensers to EMV-ready devices is an additional step in the fight to prevent skimming. He stressed that EMV readers alone will not prevent skimming. However, EMV-capable devices can reduce the value of skimmed data for making counterfeit cards. Hence, although a retailer may suffer a skimming incident, the chances of a subsequent data breach may be reduced.
Tim Weston, senior product manager, North America, at Wayne Fueling Systems, continued that c-store retailers should partner with their service partners in an effort to reduce skimming incidents. In addition, operators should enable store personnel to request site inspections from professional technicians.
Beyond that, technology is a good weapon in the fight against skimming, Weston relayed. He offered the following advice:
- Change dispenser locks to “site-unique” keysets;
- Install dispenser access alarms;
- Install a video surveillance system and run even when the store is closed; and
- Improve lighting at the forecourt.
“Criminals are looking for easy targets. These are good ways to draw them away from your location,” Weston said.
Another defense in the battle against skimming is tamper-proof tape, said Doug Spencer, director of products & services for NACS, the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing. C-store retailers can purchase WeCare tamper-evident decals by visiting www.nacsonline.com/wecare. A 500-count roll of tape costs $69, he noted.
AFTERMATH OF SKIMMING
If a c-store retailer suffers from a skimming incident, retailers should take three immediate steps, stated Gray Taylor, executive director of Conexxus.
- Disable/bag both sides of the affected pump, turn off the pump, and make sure customers do not attempt to use the pump.
- Contact local law enforcement and request an investigation. “Let them remove the skimmer, provide a copy of your inspection log and ask for a police report,” Taylor recommended.
- Contact your supplier.
Once these necessary steps are taken, affected retailers should enter a damage-control mode, he recommended. This entails empathizing with customers who could be financially and emotionally devastated, inform consumers of what is happening, and assure customers every necessary step is being taken to alleviate the situation.
When dealing with staff, c-store retailers should inform them of the issues, designate an employee who can speak to others throughout the process, and applaud the employee who found the skimmer and let them know they did a good thing, even though the actual incident is a negative for the company.
Finally, Taylor said the press is likely to contact to contact c-store retailers following skimming incidents. Don’t avoid journalist requests, he stressed.
“We’ve seen what happens on ‘60 Minutes’ when executives hide behind their desks. It doesn’t work,” he said.
Instead, don’t hide from requests for interviews and make sure to express concern about the incident during the interview, Taylor concluded.