Skimmer cure causes speed bump at the pump

Kent County

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Paying at the pump is supposed to be simple task. But sometimes, things don’t work the way they usually do.  

“It didn’t take the card right away,” Katarina Vanslambrook said as she gassed up at the J & H Family Stores station at Clyde Park Avenue and 44th Street Monday. “It just told me that it didn’t read it.”

That’s been the case for many J & H customers lately. The company switched to a new credit card reader system that uses technology to authenticate security chips without leaving the card vulnerable to so-called skimmers.

In recent years, gas stations all over West Michigan have fallen victim to the skimmers hidden in pumps. Scammers use the devices to remotely capture credit card numbers, then they transfer the information to blank cards and run up charges on your account.

J & H is the first company in the state to use the new antiskimmer technology, and it has worked. There have been no reports of skimmer fraud at any of the stations using the technology since it was installed over the summer.  

But the process at the pump is a little bit different. Drivers are creatures of habit, conditioned to put our credit cards in and pull them out quickly.

“And now you’ve got to just kind of let it rest for a second or two,” Abby Hoppen-Albers, J & H Oil’s marketing director, explained. “The confusion is leaving your card in for that extra second. We’re so used to just as fast as possible swiping it in and out.”

When the card is pulled out too soon, the computer cancels the sale.

“It basically kinds of resets the transaction. So if you’re continually shoving your card in and out, it’s going to tell you to come see the cashier,” Hoppen-Albers said.

J & H has added signs and screen messages to guide customers through the process. Now, it’s casting a wider net to let customers know how it works and how to avoid frustration.    

“We thought maybe it would just be best to get in front of the issue and explain how the pump security works,” Hoppen-Albers said.

It’s security that may eventually find its way into all gas pumps.

“I’m up for anything that protects my identity and my money, so if it takes some getting used to, it’s fine,” Vanslambrook said.

“But,” she said, “it’s a little off-putting.”

>>App users: How to protect yourself from skimmers

If you’re not fueling up at a J & H, there are ways to protect yourself from skimmers. The devices are less likely to be hidden inside pumps that clerks can see from inside the store, so you may want to choose one of those if possible. Additionally, many gas stations are placing special stickers over pumps that will change color or read “VOID” if the pump has been tampered with. If you see a disturbed sticker, don’t use the pump and alert the clerk. And, of course, you can always pay inside.

If you notice something incorrect on your credit card statement and think you may be the victim of a skimmer, call your credit card provider, local law enforcement or the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Weights and Measures Division at 517.655.8202.

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