MADISON, Wis. - In light of recent problems with skimming devices at Madison gas stations, the city council heard a proposal Tuesday night that would make gas pumps more secure.
The proposal would require all gas stations to have a unique lock on each of its pumps that only the gas station would have a key to. Currently, most gas pumps have a universal lock; criminals can buy a key online for just a few dollars.
Madison Housing Supervisor Kyle Bunnow said City of Madison Weights and Measures had thought of the idea after the recent problem with credit-card skimmers.
"Over the last month and a half, we've identified a half dozen or so skimmers in the Madison area alone," Bunnow said. "The proposed ordinance here would add a layer of consumer safety."
He said some gas stations have already started the process of buying new locks.
"We've already had a large amount of gas station go on and replace their locks or declare that they're going to do that," Bunnow said. "So we're seeing a lot of movement within stations already before the ordinance is in place. This would just help make sure that everyone is protected."
Mike Seversin owns Seversin's Service Center. He said he hasn't had a problem with skimmers but knows of other gas stations that have been hit.
"There have been gas stations nearby that have made the news," he said. "So they're in the area."
Even before hearing about the proposal, Seversin said he's been looking into buying new locks for his gas pumps.
"I've already prepared for it," he said. "Having these pumps locked securely is a good idea."
Seversin said the new locks would be a win-win situation for both him and his customers.
"Just peace of mind for my customers is the main reason I want to do it," he said. "There's a lot of concern. Everyone's checking their online banking daily, watching their credit cards."
The city said it would be relatively cheap for gas stations to install new locks. Bunnow said the average price for the lock and installation would cost be $20 to $30.
"We're supportive of the ordinance because we feel it provides consumers an extra level of safety at a very low cost to gas station owners," he said.
Until the pumps are more secure, the city said it will have inspectors routinely checking gas pumps for skimming devices.
"We're checking pumps frequently on an almost daily or weekly basis," Bunnow said. "And we're going to continue to do that until we feel that the pumps have been adequately secured and the threat to consumers is no longer as prevalent as it was."
Gas stations are also doing their part to check pumps.
"They've shown us how to check it, too," Seversin said. "So we can go out there at any time, and we're doing it more often than ever now."
Alder Mike Verveer is sponsoring the proposal and said he hopes to have the ordinance back to the council by its Nov. 1 meeting for a final vote.
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