WILKES-BARRE — The Pennsylvania Senate last week unanimously approved House Bill 1918 — legislation that will reduce fraud by criminalizing the use of credit card skimming devices.
The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill of York County, now heads to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature.
Specifically, HB 1918 would criminalize the use of a scanning or skimming device, the use of a re-encoder, and the possession or sale of a skimming device — along with imposing stiff penalties. Currently, prosecutors can only levy theft charges against such crimes.
“We strongly urge Gov. Wolf to sign this important piece of legislation that will protect consumers and benefit thousands of Pennsylvania businesses by creating a strong deterrent for identity thieves,” PFMA President and CEO Alex Baloga said.
Baloga said this is an issue that retailers and the legislature and governor’s office have been working on for some time to try to combat credit card skimming.
“Our goal is to protect consumers,” Baloga said. “We are doing everything we can to combat credit card skimming. It’s a long-standing fight and we have several partners. We will continue to do all we can to increase awareness. This legislation is a step in the right direction.”
Hard-to-detect credit card skimming devices are used to copy identifying information of credit cards at gas pumps, cash machines and other common points of payment.
Nationwide, credit card fraud costs retailers $580.5 million in losses and $6.47 billion in prevention costs annually.
The new crime would be graded as a third-degree felony for a first offense and a second or subsequent offense would be a second-degree felony. If signed into law, Pennsylvania would join 30 other states with similar laws on the books.
The bill would take effect 60 days following the governor’s signature.
“There is definitely more awareness today,” Baloga said. “Law enforcement, retailers, government agencies and the media are all telling consumers what to watch for. It’s been a group effort.”
FTC issues tips
The Federal Trade Commission — www.consumer.ftc — offers several tips to keep your cards and account numbers safe.
For example, the FTC recommends you keep a record of all account numbers, their expiration dates and the phone number to report fraud for each company in a secure place. Also, don’t lend your card to anyone — even your kids or roommates — and don’t leave your cards, receipts, or statements around your home or office. When you no longer need them, shred them before throwing them away.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.