LAS CRUCES – Have you ever used a credit or debit card to purchase gasoline at the pump? If so, you may want to brush up on your knowledge about skimmer devices and learn how to protect yourself from having your card information stolen.
When you pay at the pump, there’s a possibility for thieves to steal your credit card information using skimmers. Thieves attach skimming devices to the card scanner, and the devices capture the account data from cards used to purchase gas without interfering with the purchase. In petroleum dispensers, the devices are often attached directly to a circuit board on the card reader on the inside of the dispenser. The cardholder is unaware that the data has been compromised until it has been used to make unauthorized purchases.
What does skimming have to do with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA)?
Not only does NMDA support the viability of agriculture, support the beneficial use of natural resources, promote food protection and global marketing, but a big part of its responsibility is consumer protection and regulatory compliance.
The NMDA Standards and Consumer Services Division (SCS) is responsible for enforcing New Mexico’s weights and measures laws and regulations. Petroleum and fuel pumps fall into this category. The petroleum standards program is responsible for the annual inspection and testing of all commercial petroleum measuring devices used in the state as well as ensuring product quality for gasoline, diesel, kerosene, brake fluid, antifreeze and lubricating oil. Precise field standards are used in these inspections and are certified through the division’s metrology laboratory.
NMDA’s petroleum laboratory analyzes all petroleum product samples collected by field staff for compliance with quality standards established in the Petroleum Products Standards Act.
“While collecting petroleum samples for testing or inspecting pumps to ensure they are dispensing the correct fuel quantity, inspectors may come across a skimmer device,” said New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte. “Consumer protection is part of the NMDA’s mission, and SCS staff works closely with law enforcement regarding this issue.”
In January, NMDA staff attended a training that focused on the latest credit card skimmer detection and enforcement practices in the state of Florida where the illegal activity is extremely prominent. Part of the National Conference on Weights and Measures interim meeting, the training included technical presentations and discussions, as well as demonstrations at actual retail businesses in the area.
As a consumer, the following steps may help protect yourself from being a victim of skimming at the fuel pump:
- Pull on the credit card reader to ensure it is permanent
- Check for audit tape to ensure no one has tampered with the dispenser
- Choose a fuel pump that’s in the cashier’s sight
- Go inside and pay with cash
If you discover a credit card skimmer at the pump, report it to authorities as well as to the store manager. To report identify theft, call the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338 or visit www.identitytheft.gov.
New Mexico fuel retailers are asked to contact NMDA SCS staff at 575-646-1616 as soon as possible after a skimmer is found. SCS also provides information to retailers and repair establishments regarding steps to take if a skimmer is discovered.