Although law enforcement has found nearly 70 credit card skimmers — small devices that capture credit and debit card information — at gas station pumps across the state of Michigan, none were in Hillsdale County.
Gas stations in Coldwater were the closest locations at which law enforcement found skimmers in a recent Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development report. Management of Hillsdale gas stations said they implement several security measures to protect their customers from identity theft and have plans to install EMV chip readers — EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa, the first companies to use the readers — for further safety.
“Above all, the main thing is your guys’ safety,” said Cortney Longrey, store manager at Team One Food Store at 240 S. Broad St. “That’s the worst thing in the world, having somebody get your credit card info.”
Jennifer Holton, communications director for Michigan’s agriculture department, said law enforcement found three skimmers at gas stations in Coldwater in November 2015, since the first skimmer in Michigan was found in the Grand Rapids area more than a year ago. The skimmers in Coldwater were subsequently removed.
Law enforcement inspects gasoline dispensers on a quarterly basis for skimmers, which someone can install in seconds.
Although Coldwater is over 20 miles away, Hillsdale gas stations still implement safety measures, including surveillance mechanisms and security labels, to keep fraudsters away.
Now, gas station managers are looking into EMV chip card readers. Michigan law requires that by Oct. 1, 2017, all gas pumps must be able to read these integrated circuits on credit cards.
Unlike typical credit cards’ magnetic strip, information traveling from the card’s chip at the pump to the store’s computer is encrypted, making it harder for skimmers to read the name and card number being transmitted.
The Citgo at Team One has the machines for reading chips, but the system needs an update before it will be fully functional, Longrey said. Others are waiting for the hardware to become available, since the new chip readers are in high demand, said Ed Heath, vice president of operations for Folk Oil Company, which owns PS Food Mart at 17 Carleton Road.
For now, Hillsdale gas stations are using other means to protect their patrons.
Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s 185 W. Carleton Road location installed a new security system two weeks ago on its pumps, manager Kamal Leton said.
Team One also has a security system with 16 surveillance cameras to keep watch on its pumps, entrances, and exits, Longrey said.
The store also places security labels over the pump’s lock. In order to insert a skimmer, the identity theft would have to open the lock. If someone peels back the tape, the label will read void. Team One checks the labels every day, Longrey said.
“We haven’t had any problems,” she said. “Some places have… because they’re not placing the labels on the pumps properly. You have to put them where the skimmer can get in and out of pump — that’s the key opening.”
Longrey added that Team One also has the security tape on its credit card reader inside the store.
“People don’t think that can be tampered with, as well,” Longrey said.
Most people use the credit card reader inside the store, she said, though the pumps outside receive about 75 transactions a day.
Longrey said the labels are important because pumps’ locks are universal, meaning a single key can open almost all gas station pumps in the state and even across the country.
That’s why PS Food Mart’s Citgo uses a proprietary lock set on its pumps in addition to using security tape and video surveillance, Heath said. The set changes the locks so that only the set’s keys can open the pumps.
“It closes the door on some folks,” Heath said. “We want to make ourselves a less attractive target.”
Looking ahead, although the United States is switching to EMV credit card chips, Heath said Americans are still missing out on further protection. The chips can employ a personal identification number, but credit card companies are not using that measure, at least not yet. Chip and PIN verification would require shoppers to input a four or six digit code when they use their card.
“It’s a security tool that would’ve made us a whole lot stronger,” Heath said.
Nonetheless, Heath said the measures in place are helpful in deterring identity thieves and protecting customers.
“There isn’t a legal requirement, but to say there’s not a moral requirement would be inaccurate,” Heath said. “Just as you want to protect your customers’ safety physically, we need to so electronically.”