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State cracks down on card skimmers at gas pumps

Skimming devices were installed on three pumps at

Skimming devices were installed on three pumps at a Merrick gas station on May 28, 2015, in an apparent attempt to steal financial information, Nassau County police said. Photo Credit: NCPD / File

State officials say they have begun a crackdown on illegal credit/debit card skimmers at gas pumps.

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets' Weights and Measures Bureau has for several weeks been conducting a sweep of gas station dispensers, as well as training its officials and county weights-and-measures officials to spot skimming devices, according to a news release Tuesday from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

A skimmer is a fake card reader, usually installed over the legitimate card reader slot on a gas pump, automated teller machine or other card reader, to steal the data from cards' magnetic strips. The data is stored or electronically transmitted and, in either case, used to encode a counterfeit card, which then can be used to drain a victim's account.

Often, a tiny hidden video camera is used to record the card owner's PIN. Sometimes instead of a camera a fake keypad overlay is placed directly on the real keypad to record the PIN.

A sweep this spring in Florida of more than 7,500 gas stations found 103 credit card skimmers in use.

"Credit card fraud is a nightmare that could have a long-lasting impact on a victim's finances and credit rating," Cuomo said Tuesday in a statement.

The announcement cited an estimate from FICO Card Alert Services that about 30 percent of all credit card fraud happens at point-of-sale locations such as gas pumps. In most cases, cardholder victims are made whole by card issuers.

New, chip-embedded debit and credit cards, said to be resistant to counterfeiting, are now being issued to consumers by banks. But automated fuel dispensers at gas stations won't have to be upgraded to accept the new cards until Oct. 1, 2017.

During the past few weeks of the New York sweep, inspectors spot-checked about 500 gas dispensers and spotted skimmers in Niagara Falls and Rochester.

There are about 42,000 gas dispensers in New York State, the announcement said.

Ralph Bombardiere, executive director of the Gasoline and Automotive Service Dealers Association, said: "It's great, about time. Whatever anybody can do to slow it down or stop it, we appreciate it."

The group, based in Inwood, has 1,500 members on Long Island and in New York City.

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