New technology protecting your data at the pumps

Posted at 5:47 PM, Dec 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-09 17:51:11-05

WEST MICHIGAN – Usually, the biggest issue motorists have when filling up at the pump is the price of gas. But with a recent influx in credit card skimmers popping up at gas stations around West Michigan, now, consumers have an entirely new batch of issues to worry about.

But there is relief in the works. Since mid-2014, one West Michigan-based company has been manufacturing and distributing a special kind of gas pump, designed specifically with the safety of your credit information in mind. The pumps, manufactured by Bennett Pump Company in Spring Lake, have several physical and technological guards in place to secure data.

“It’s a fail-safe for credit card data being stolen,” said James Collier, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Bennett. “It literally removes that as a threat.”

The pumps include two separate key locks – one for the pump itself and another for the receipt paper – ensuring entry to the pump and its wiring is avoided unless absolutely necessary. Likewise, the pumps include a seal sticker that, if broken, indicates a breach. Inside the pump, the technology responsible for storing precious credit data is physically protected by a casing, making it near impossible for scammers to get to the wiring without being noticed.

“It’s pretty fool proof,” said Collier. “They’d have to spend a few days at a dispenser to actually get to where they could steal credit card data.”

However, should a crook get past the physical barriers, the machine has a software that kicks in.

“If someone does try to put [a skimmer] on the new credit card machines in our dispensers, that credit card reader will actually go into a breach mode,” said Collier.

Technologically, that’s the beauty of these new machines. If a breach is detected, the machine shuts down and alerts the vendor before any information is released to scammers.

Right now, Bennett, an international company, manufactures and distributes roughly 6,000 units yearly – a fraction of which remain right here in West Michigan. Per industry regulations, they and all other North American pump producers have been required to manufacture their pumps with this technology since 2014.

And down the road, there are more features to come. In 2017, pump producers will be required to manufacture their machines with EMV chip readers, further ensuring the safety of consumer data. Many of the current machines already in use have the EMV chip reader, but have not activated their capabilities just yet. Once they are activated in 2017, motorists will be able to use either the chip reader or swipe their magnetic strip for payment.

The only issue Bennett and other manufactures have faced is the cost associated with installation of these pumps. The cost is several thousand dollars to vendors, a cost Collier feels is well worth it, but pricey nonetheless.

“Consumers gravitate towards it because it makes them feel secure, and it is secure,” said Collier. “But retailers – they push back a little bit because there is a significant expense associated with actually having to upgrade their equipment. So there is a pull and tug there.”

Cost aside, Collier still believes this is the safest option for both consumers and vendors, who would both be out money should a skimmer make its way into a pump. It’s happened before, and it could very well happen again – which is what Bennett is working towards eliminating altogether.

“What we’d like to do is take away that fear,” said Collier. “Get rid of that fear let them know they’re using a secure product – your credit’s protected.”