VANDALIA — Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith launched his “Stop Skimmers” initiative to keep criminals with skimmers out of the county’s gas pumps by encouraging stations to increase pump security.
He announced the effort on December 1 at the Montgomery County Solid Waste District building, where he honored four gas station operators for taking initiative to secure their pumps, Jimmy Patel from the BP station on 129 E. National Road in Vandalia.
On November 5, 2015 during a routine inspection, Weights and Measures inspectors discovered a skimmer at the BP on 129 E. National Rd. in Vandalia, the first in the county in two years and the beginning of a trend of skimmers in Southwest Ohio. Alarmed by the situation, owner Jimmy Patel installed all new pumps with site-specific keys and alarms on the pumps that shut down when opened, requiring a certified employee to reactivate it.
“The Vandalia BP is a leader in gas pump security here in Montgomery County,” Keith said. “It is clear Jimmy Patel shows a genuine concern for the wellbeing of his consumers.”
Keith’s inspectors have also increased their efforts to address this crime. In 2016, they performed more than 13,000 inspections, nearly doubling their 7000 inspection average in previous years. However, according to Keith, the pumps become vulnerable again as soon as his inspectors leave the station.
Gas pumps are sold with a universal lock installed, and many stations do not change those locks. A key for those pumps can be bought easily and cheaply online by criminals who can use that key to easily access pumps. Every time a skimmer has been found on a gas pump in Montgomery County, it has been on a gas pump with a universal lock, according to Keith. He says that installing site-specific locks is an affordable way to significantly reduce the chances of a skimmer being placed in the pumps.
Keith said there are 70 gas stations in the Montgomery County that have locking mechanisms which will significantly reduce the chances of criminals accessing their gas pumps. These gas stations make up a little more than one-third of the 200 gas stations in the county.
Keith released a list of these “Gold Seal Stations” on his new “Stop Skimmers” webpage, at www.mcohio.org/StopSkimmers.
“Gas stations are the front-line of defense in this crime and consumers should be aware of the stations that have acted proactively to protecting them,” Keith said. “We hope to encourage the two-thirds of gas stations in Montgomery County that are currently using universal locks to install stronger locks.”
Keith said gas stations that would like increase the security of their pumps and be listed as a Gold Seal Station should call his office’s consumer hotline at 937-225-6309.
The Stop Skimmers webpage also includes information on how consumers can protect themselves, guidelines for how gas stations can improve pump security and background information on the credit card skimming problem.
Credit card skimming has become an increasingly frequent concern in Ohio. More than 80 skimmers have been found in Ohio gas pumps since 2015. More than half of those findings were in southwest Ohio, including four found this summer in Montgomery County and another in Greene County.