Inver Grove Heights police and gas stations partner up


All gasoline retailers in Inver Grove Heights are participating in Skim Stop, a program designed to help prevent skimming — the theft of credit card information — at the pump. There will be a sticker, like the one on a pump seen here at The Corner Store, which will help customers make sure the credit card readers on pumps have not been tampered with, and regular inspections of the pumps. • Hannah Burlingame/Review

New program in place to help prevent credit card skimming at the pump

 

Inver Grove Heights police and gas retailers have teamed up to help combat identity theft with a new program called Skim Stop.

Inver Grove Heights City Council member Paul Hark brought the idea to the department after reading about the program in Eagan. Skim Stop places official stickers on gas pumps to let customers know they haven’t been tampered with, and also establishes steps through which gas station employees regularly check pump card readers to assure they haven’t be tampered with.

“This program is inexpensive, good for the gas retailers and their customers, and allows the police to develop relationships with the participating retailers that they may have not have had the chance to develop,” Hark said.

There are 13 gas retailers in the city, a number that is manageable from all angles, Hark said.

According to a press release from the department, all 13 of those gas stations have become involved.

The program was created by the Eagan Police Department, and was implemented in Inver Grove Heights on Oct. 1. 

 

Looking out for customers

Skim Stop helps provide customers fraud protection by ensuring the pay-at-the-pump feature is not compromised by a skimmer, which reads and captures information from a debit or credit card. 

Sgt. Adam Wiederhoeft, who was tasked with rolling out the program, said it is often difficult to tell if a skimmer has been placed on a pump. He said sometimes, the skimmer is placed behind the gas pump door, which may cause it to look different when closed. 

“If it looks like it’s been forced closed, as if something that does not belong there has been put behind it, reach out to the gas station employees,” Wiederhoeft said.

Another skimming method is placing something over the card reader. Wiederhoeft said consumers should look at the card reader, and if it appears loose or looks like something was placed over it, they should let gas station employees know.

Channing Smith, who owns The Corner Store, located in the 3000 block of 80th Street East, said his store already had a similar program in place for the past couple years, through the local trade group. 

“I had pieces and parts of that program in place already,” Smith said. “The city offered a bundled program that would look unified [across] businesses in the city.”

Smith said customers will see the same stickers at other gas stations in the city and know The Corner Store is part of a program looking out for consumers. 

 

Protection, but not a guarantee

While Skim Stop is designed to protect gas station customers from skimmers, Wiederhoeft said consumers can help by being alert at the pumps. 

Smith said customers should look for the stickers when at the pump. They can help business owners be vigilant to make sure pumps haven’t been tampered with.

“Just because we check them at 10 a.m., doesn’t mean they couldn’t have been tampered with later in the day,” Smith said.

Interim police Chief Sean Folmar said he is not aware of any specific cases involving gas retailers in Inver Grove Heights and skimming. However, the department has taken several reports of identify theft where it is unclear where the victim’s bank information was stolen and then used fraudulently. 

Hark said as part of the program, participating retailers agreed to inspect their gas pumps every day to make sure the tamper-proof tape has not been compromised. Wiederhoeft said the seals cannot be removed without showing “void,” which will alert employees it has been tampered with. Retailers keep records of each time the pumps are checked, and the records are checked regularly by an officer to make sure the retailers are following established protocol.

Participating retailers will have stickers that can be displayed on the pump, showing they are part of the program.

“The program is not a 100 percent guarantee against credit card skimming, but it does serve as a deterrent for the criminals who want to steal credit card data via gas stations credit card readers,” Hark said.

 

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

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