State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced the results of a first-ever, statewide effort to crack down on illegal credit and debit card skimmers at gas pumps in every county of New York State. During its inspection sweep in November, members of state and municipal weights and measures bureaus found six skimmers installed in gas pumps, all of which were turned over to local police for investigation.
The Department and municipal weights and measures will continue to check for skimmers as part of their regular inspections, adding a measure of security for consumers, particularly around the holiday travel season.
Commissioner Ball said, “Many New Yorkers have been saved from the damage caused by the theft of their personal information as a result of this successful inspection sweep. This is just the beginning of our efforts to help protect New Yorkers. Now that our inspectors and municipal partners are trained, we will make checking for skimmers a part of our everyday routine, now, during one of the busiest travel holidays of the year, and year-round.”
The Department launched this effort after developing and providing training to county weights and measures officials to spot skimming devices in their communities. In total, state and county inspectors checked 10,001 gas pumps, nearly 25 percent of all dispensers in the state, from November 2 through 25, which marked the start of the traditional Thanksgiving travel season. They found skimmers inside six dispensers in Niagara, Monroe, Westchester, Rockland and Orange counties, and New York City.
The discoveries in Niagara County and Monroe County were made prior to the start of the November sweep, as inspectors developed and tested their training. A sweep by local police after the discovery in Monroe County turned up four more skimmers. All incidents discovered by inspectors were immediately referred to local police. The Department also shared its findings with the New York State Police and the United States Secret Service.
“The U.S. Secret Service is proud to have consulted with the New York State Police and the Department of Agriculture and Markets Bureau of Weights and Measures on this important initiative,” said Resident Agent in Charge Jeff Wood of the White Plains Resident Office. “Cooperation and partnerships such as these enhance our collective ability to safeguard the financial payment systems utilized by New York State merchants.”
All six skimmers were internal devices connected to the wiring of the card reader inside the gas pump in order to intercept and store credit card data until downloaded by the criminals. Skimmers can be attached to the outside of a dispenser or hard-wired to the inside.
The Department and municipal weights and measures encourages consumers to also be wary of gas pumps and ATMs that appear to have been tampered with or that have loose credit card readers. Consumers should also shield the keypad with their hands when inputting PIN numbers.
If a consumer suspects that a gas pump may be compromised, he or she should contact local police immediately. Consumers should also keep a close watch on their bank accounts for signs of illegal activity, and immediately report any problems to the credit card company.
The Department of Agriculture and Markets Bureau of Weights and Measures works to assure measurement accuracy for a fair and equitable commercial marketplace. State and local weights and measures officials annually inspect thousands of scales, gas pumps, and other types of devices as well as thousands of different packaged commodities. The weights and measures programs are a critical part of New York State's infrastructure, protecting consumers and businesses equally. In addition to the State Bureau of Weights and Measures, which has jurisdiction over the entire State, there are 64 county and city weights and measures departments or offices providing services to their communities.