Skimmers still found in Wisconsin; Lawmakers propose harsher punishments

Skimmers still found in Wisconsin; Lawmakers propose harsher punishments

“Technology keeps changing and the crooks keep figuring it out,” said Mike Seversin, who owns a Citgo gas station on Madison’s east side.

He said he’s frustrated that skimmers continue to target businesses like his.

“That concerned myself and my customers. (They were) real worried about it (and) obviously quizzing me when they would come in,” Seversin said.

Thankfully, none of his pumps were hit, but several others in Madison were.

“We probably had a dozen of these show up late summer into the fall,” said Joel DeSpain, public information officer for the Madison Police Department.

Since that time, city officials have worked to resolve the problem. They passed an ordinance on Jan. 1 that requires all pumps to use a unique locking device. Initially, skimmers were able to use a universal key to unlock nearly every gas pump and install the card-reading device.

“Since the pumps had new locks placed on them, we really have not seen new skimming devices show up,” DeSpain said.

State lawmakers want to continue with deterrence, since the problem still exists around Wisconsin. Rep. Rob Summerfield, R-Bloomer, and Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, formed a new bill that creates punishments to fit the crime.

“Talking to people, law enforcement, realizing this is becoming more and more of a problem, an issue, and realizing there’s no penalties for this,” Summerfield said.

Through this legislation, skimmers would be charged with three separate felonies: possession of a skimming device, transferring the device and stealing money.

The Madison Police Department said it currently enforces only one of those.

“We did arrest two men from California and tentatively charged them with identity theft, so that’s what’s on the books right now,” DeSpain said.

If convicted, that charge can add up to six years in prison.

DeSpain said the department is ready to enforce more penalties to scare skimmers out of the state and away from gas stations like Seversin’s.

“It would be nice to see a little more of a penalty set for people that do do it, to discourage them from trying to do it,” Seversin said.

A hearing will be held on the new skimming penalty bill within the next week. Summerfield said he feels confident it will pass into law by the end of this legislative session.