Credit card skimmer protections head to House

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gas stations would have to install new safety measures at fuel pumps to ward off would-be credit card skimmers trying to steal financial information under a plan the Senate approved Wednesday.

Senators passed the bill in a 35-1 vote with no debate on the last day of session before they reconvene in September for full session. Two session days are planned over the summer.

Pumps that read credit cards would have to include new security measures such as “pressure-sensitive security tape,” a device that would shut down the pump or credit card scanner if a panel were opened without official authorization, encrypting credit card information or other methods to thwart potential thieves, according to the legislation.

The bill now heads to the House for consideration. It seems unlikely that the House will take it up over the summer during lawmakers’ legislative break.

Machines called skimmers can be installed into gas station pumps to steal credit card information.

In 2015, a spokeswoman for the department charged with keeping tabs on the issue, Jennifer Holton, called the problem “unprecedented” and said the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development began requiring the state’s 14 gas pump inspectors to check for such devices.

Michigan has more than 100,000 gas pumps across the state.

Stolen credit card information can be financially devastating to people if they don’t check their bank statements regularly, although liability can often fall on banks that issue the cards.

Most of the state’s gas stations were already aware of the problem and have been voluntarily making use of safety measures outlined in the legislation, said Mark Griffin, president of the Michigan Petroleum Association, which lobbies for gas stations and convenience stores across the state.

Griffin said the association did not take a position on the bill, but said it might help educate the public that skimming is a major issue.

“There might be some folks that just haven’t gotten the word yet,” he said, “but I think ... it raises the public awareness and that’s really what needs to be done.

“If anything we wish there was the ability for law enforcement to do more ... and that’s not addressed in the bill,” he continued. “It’s a nationwide problem, it’s not unique to Michigan by any means.”