New law in effect in Pennsylvania criminalizes ‘skimming’ at fuel pumps

August 29, 2018

Keith Goble


A new law now in effect in Pennsylvania puts on notice individuals who attempt to defraud consumers at fuel pumps. The new law is intended to deter payment card “skimming.”

The devices are attached to external fuel pump payment card readers and ATMs. The small devices, or “skimmers,” can be installed within seconds. They are designed to steal and store debit and credit card data. The data can then be retrieved and used for fraudulent purchases or activities.

A single compromised pump can capture data from as many as 100 cards per day, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.

Pennsylvania law has limited prosecutors to levy theft charges against an individual intending to defraud the authorized user, the card issuer, or a merchant.

Effective Tuesday, Aug. 28, a new state law is described by Gov. Tom Wolf as increasing protections for consumers.

Specifically, the new law criminalizes the act of placing scanning or skimming devices on fuel pumps and ATMs. The possession or sale of affected devices are included in the criminal classification.

Violators would face third-degree felony charges. Repeat offenders would face second-degree felony charges.

Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York, said the state’s laws have not kept up with the new technology used by individuals involved with credit card fraud.

“(The new law) will hopefully serve as a further deterrent for criminals who want nothing more than to steal someone’s identity and disrupt our lives for their own benefit,” Phillips-Hill said in previous remarks.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture inspects fuel pumps on an annual basis, and the governor’s office says its inspectors are trained to recognize skimmers. On occasions that a skimmer is found, the inspector is required to notify law enforcement.

The agency asks people who believe they have been scammed to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-441-2555, or by email.

Law enforcement recommends consumers look for a broken seal on fuel pumps. Another preventative measure for consumers is to give card readers a firm pull before inserting their card. They add that many in the industry consider this to be the best way to determine if a pump has been tampered with because if a pump has been hacked, consumers will likely be able to pull the whole unit out. Also, it is recommended to avoid pumps that are out of sight of the clerk.

Information provided by the Dallas Police Department notes that many skimmer devices are equipped with Bluetooth technology. The agency recommends customers enable Bluetooth from their cellphone and search for a device.

“If your phone detects a long string of numbers trying to connect, this is a sign that a skimming device may be inside the fuel pump or ATM,” the department web site reads.

An application for Android cellphones called Skimmer Scanner has been highlighted in a CNET article to assist in detecting skimming devices.

Consumers suspecting a skimmer device is present are asked to notify law enforcement by calling 9-1-1.


Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.