New Iowa law intended to combat 'skimming' at fuel pumps

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/9/2018

Folks in Iowa who attempt to defraud consumers at fuel pumps are on notice. A 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.

Iowa law has read that a prosecutor must show that an individual has the intent to defraud the authorized user, the card issuer, or a merchant.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed into law a bill to simplify prosecution of criminals who place skimming devices on fuel pumps and ATMs.

Specifically, HF2199 clarifies it is a felony offense to obtain information encoded on a payment card without permission. Offenders would face up to five years in prison and a fine from $750 to $7,500.

Rep. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant, referred to skimmers as “a crime wave that is systemically sweeping across the country.”

“In the last two years in Iowa there has been a fivefold increase in the amount of skimmers being placed at gas pumps, convenience stores and ATMs,” Nunn said during House floor discussion. “HF2199 makes changes to our code to ensure the persons using skimming devices to steal credit and debit card information face a penalty.”

The new law also creates a criminal offense to cover instances when a person possesses a scanning device with the intent to obtain information encoded on a payment car without permission from the user, the issuer, or a merchant. Violators would face up to two years behind bars and a fine of $650 to $6,250.

Additionally, the rule change expands third-degree criminal mischief to include instances when a person intentionally damages, defaces, alters, or destroys property used for payment card processing.

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.

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