Pennsylvania senate approves anti-credit card skimming bill

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
Baloga Baloga -

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.

Other fraud protection practices include:

• Don’t give your account number to anyone on the phone unless you’ve made the call to a company you know to be reputable. If you’ve never done business with them before, do an online search first for reviews or complaints.

• Carry your cards separately from your wallet. It can minimize your losses if someone steals your wallet or purse. And carry only the card you need for that outing.

• During a transaction, keep your eye on your card. Make sure you get it back before you walk away.

• Never sign a blank receipt. Draw a line through any blank spaces above the total.

• Save your receipts to compare with your statement.

• Open your bills promptly — or check them online often — and reconcile them with the purchases you’ve made.

• Report any questionable charges to the card issuer.

• Notify your card issuer if your address changes or if you will be traveling.

• Don’t write your account number on the outside of an envelope.


By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.