RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The state agency responsible for checking gas pumps in North Carolina is stepping up efforts aimed at finding credit card skimmers that have been placed in those pumps.
It’s a problem that’s becoming increasingly worrisome for officials statewide.
There are thousands of gas stations in North Carolina and the Department of Agriculture has the responsibility of checking to make sure you get what you pay for when you fill up.
Small stickers on the front of the gas pump indicate when it was last inspected.
During those inspections, agriculture department agents also look for credit card skimmers, but there are so many pumps and so few agents that those inspections for card skimmers generally occur only on an annual basis.
Meanwhile, the proliferation of illegal credit card skimmers in gas pumps has caught the eye of regulators.
“It certainly is growing problem,” says Stephen Benjamin, who is the Director of the N.C. Agriculture Department Standards Division.
It’s so much of a problem that about a year ago, finding skimmers was added to the list of things checked at the pumps.
“It’s a routine part of our inspections now to look for those skimmers” says Benjamin.
Because inspectors can’t get to every gas pump in the state often enough to check them all for hidden card skimmers on a frequent basis, the department is working on a program to train the industry so that gas station employees know what to look for.
“They have a lot more eyes out there than I do,” explains Benjamin.
The department is in process of finishing up how its industry training program will work. So far, the program will include online photos and other reference material for gas station employees.
Consumers also need to check the pump for obvious signs of tampering such as broken security tape or loose-fitting card readers that may hide an external skimming device.
“I look to make sure the card holder looks like it’s part of the machine or not,” driver Fiorella Horna told CBS North Carolina.
As the closest people to the pumps, Benjamin says gas station employees also need to make frequent pump checks to make sure nothing has been put inside the pump cabinet.
“If they walk around a couple of times a day and inspect their pumps, that’s an opportunity to take a glance,” he says.
Experts say the use of RFID chip cards will eventually cut down on credit card thefts by card skimmers at the pump, but that technology won’t be required at North Carolina gas pumps until 2020.