Texas strives to be number one in everything, but credit card skimming should not be one of them. 

Credit card skimming at gas pumps is a rapidly growing problem and data shows that Texas leads the nation in this type of crime. 

Criminals tamper with gas pumps and insert card skimmers, which allows them to collect bank account and personal information as you make a transaction.

State Rep. Mary Ann Perez

The device can be inserted in less than a minute and will gather the account information of every card swiped from that point on. This information includes, but is not limited to, your credit or debit card number, PIN number, the expiration date and the cardholder’s full name. They use this information for ATM withdrawals, online purchases or to buy untraceable gift cards.

Consumer protection has always been a priority of mine. If you watch the news, you can see that people regularly have their account information stolen by credit card skimmers at gas pumps. Having your information stolen is a major inconvenience, and many people cannot afford to go a couple days without money as they wait for a new card.

Last year, we decided to look into the issue and find a solution. Various state agencies, local and county law enforcement agencies, gas stations, bank representatives, District Attorneys, and the Secret Service have all played a role in our discussions. As a result, I decided to author and file House Bill 2945, which would give the Office of the Attorney General rulemaking authority to prevent skimmer installations on gas pumps and create best practices as the skimmer technology evolves. This will help ensure that gas stations are being preventative on their end. 

The bill also allows for the creation of a fusion center in the City of Tyler for the sole purpose of combating payment fraud. Law enforcement experts and financial crimes specialists informed us that a centralized location to house all the data and information relative to payment fraud would facilitate the sharing of information across jurisdictions and aid in the investigative process. East Texas and Houston are amongst the hardest hit when it comes to this type of crime; therefore, we have asked them to lead the way on the fight against skimmers. 

The best way to avoid being a victim is to use cash or credit inside when filling up at the gas station. Also, if you do use your card, it is good practice to get a receipt for your records just in case. It is also important to report any suspicious activity or noticeable tampering at gas pumps around the state to the store clerk or local law enforcement.

Chances are that you have had your information stolen, or know someone who has, and House Bill 2945 aims to address this issue. This is a national problem that Texas can take the lead on and become a model for other states.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column by state Rep. Mary Ann Perez is part of a series of op-eds penned by members of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. The series will run throughout the 86th Legislative Session.