Auditor: Credit card company delays mean traps remain at gas pumps

12:46 p.m Friday, Dec. 9, 2016 Butler County
Tom Kamphaus of the Butler County Auditor’s Office checks for credit card skimmers Sept. 1 at the Marathon gas station at the corner of Cincinnati Dayton Road and Tylersville Road in West Chester Twp. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Two more credit card skimmers found in Ohio this week show the problem is not going away, and one Butler County official says residents are still vulnerable to these thieves because credit card companies are delaying converting gas pumps to chip card technology.

During the past 16 months, more than 35 skimmers have been pulled out of fuel pumps in Ohio, including eight in Butler County.

Two more credit card skimmers were found in fuel pumps in northern Ohio this week — on Dec. 5 in Allen County and on Dec. 6 in Lucas County.

MORE: Butler County adds extra inspectors added after credit card skimmers found

When a credit card is run through a skimmer, the small device stores the cardholder’s data. Once the credit information is obtained, the thief can then sell the information or clone the credit card. All the devices found so far in the county have been located inside fuel pumps.

Consumers will continue to be vulnerable to credit card theft because Visa and MasterCard have postponed until 2020 a deadline to have chip card technology installed on all fuel pumps, Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds said today in a statement.

The costs to shift over to the new chip cards are prohibitive for gas stations. One industry consultant estimated the total cost to upgrade U.S. fuel pumps to chip cards could hit $6 billion. Stations needing entirely new pumps could be out $50,000 to $80,000 per location.

Despite those costs, Reynolds says Visa and MasterCard need to keep pressing for improved fraud protection.

“We will continue to devote resources to protect those who pay at the pumps,” Reynolds said. “The actions by Visa and MasterCard unfortunately have delayed a fix to the problem of skimmers. I’m disappointed in their decision, but I will say that many gas station owners and managers here have increased their pump security since last year.”

There have been eight skimmers found in Butler County. A total of six Butler County stations have been targeted since November 2015, including four in West Chester Township near Interstate 75.

MORE: Butler County reports no skimmers found since Memorial Day

“Here in Butler County we have been aggressive in monitoring our fuel pumps and have not found any skimmers since June 7,” Reynolds said. “Each pump in the county that is not tamper proof has been opened and inspected at least 27 times since the beginning of June.”

For those that continue to pay with a card instead of cash, debit cards should be avoided, Reynolds said. When a debit card passes through a skimmer, the PIN and the account number are stolen, allowing direct access to the person’s checking account, he said.

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