Proposal would see those caught using skimmers facing serious penalties

Chances are good that when you stop to fill up your tank, you don't give a second thought to using your credit card to pay at the pump, as it spares you from having to make the long -- and frequently cold -- walk into the gas station only to stand in line or wait for the cashier to finally materialize.

Interestingly enough, reports from local police departments and the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection indicate that you might want to take a closer look at the pump the next time you swipe your credit card, as the installation of skimmers appears to be on the rise.

For those unfamiliar with skimmers, they are essentially hard-to-detect devices that are surreptitiously installed on ATMs or gas pumps, and designed to steal credit card numbers.

The perceived problem with skimmers has not gone unnoticed by state lawmakers, including Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay), who has introduced a proposal calling for the punishment for those caught using a skimmer to be increased considerably.

According to Cowles, the current laws covering the use of skimmers are proving relatively ineffective in preventing and punishing the behavior, essentially requiring law enforcement "to practically catch the person putting the thing in, or see them on a tape ahead of time."        

His proposal, which would add Wisconsin to the list of more than 30 states with anti-skimmer laws, calls for these acts to be criminalized and punished as follows:

  • Possessing a skimmer with the intent to commit identity theft would be punishable by up to 3.5 years in prison.
  • Possessing a skimmer with the intent to provide it to another to commit identity theft would be punishable by up to six years in prison.
  • Attempting to use a skimmer would be punishable by up to six years in prison.
  • Taking anything of value through the use of a skimmer would be punishable by up to ten years in prison.

It's perhaps early to speculate on the prospects of this bill passing given that it has yet to be assigned a public hearing date. Nevertheless, it's possible that some lawmakers might prove reluctant to get behind a somewhat draconian sentencing scheme.

Stay tuned for updates ...

If you've been charged with any manner of theft-related offense, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional ready to protect your rights and preserve your future as soon as possible.

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