Gas prices are at an all-time high, and rivers are keeping a careful eye on them. However, a shortage of inexpensive gas isn’t the only problem you could encounter when filling your tank. A petrol pump skimmer can drain your bank account quickly.
Skimmers, small devices that fraudsters place on or above card readers at gas pumps (and ATMs) to copy and steal your credit card information, are often used in gas station fraud. The swindle used to be limited to cities, but it has now moved to rural regions, and everyone should be on the lookout for these gadgets.
Taking the extra few minutes to pay inside will help you avoid being a victim of a gas pump card skimmer. However, while most people are eager to download the finest gas apps and gas credit cards to save money on petrol, they are less enthusiastic about having to go inside every time they fill up. So the best way to avoid getting scammed is to learn how to protect oneself while paying at the pump.
What do credit card skimmers look like?
On point-of-sale terminals, credit card skimming devices are installed, allowing thieves to steal information from your card when you swipe it. According to Chris Hauk, consumer privacy champion at online privacy and security portal Pixel Privacy, “a credit card skimmer is a device that transmits data from your credit card’s stripe.” “Skimmers are frequently discovered on petrol pumps or other point-of-sale devices in regions where they aren’t being watched every minute of the day, as this gives the bad guys time to install a skimmer on a pump without being seen.”
What is the purpose of a gas skimmer?
When you use your credit card to pay, this device, as the name implies, skims data from it. According to Paul Bischoff, a privacy advocate with cybersecurity website Comparitech, a credit card skimmer is a magnetic stripe reader put on an existing, genuine card reader. “Whenever a customer pays with a card, both the skimmer and the original reader read the card.”
Customers have no reason to think anything has gone wrong with their transaction because they see it go through. “Skimmers are designed to be undetectable so that the victim is unaware,” he says. “Until the person who installed it there retrieves it, the skimmer saves scanned credit card information.”
The thief can then use your credit card details to buy stuff online, perpetuating internet frauds.
Can card skimmers be used with chip cards?
Credit card skimmers can read chip-enabled cards, however they only read the magnetic strip, not the chip, thus avoid using the strip reader if at all feasible.
Consider this one component of a multifaceted method to avoiding gas-station con artists: “”If a chip reader is available at the pump, utilize it, and always use a pump that is in a conspicuous portion of the gas station, such as the pump right in front of the cashier’s window,” Hauk advises. Skimmers are more difficult to attach to high-visibility pumps.”
What is the appearance of a credit card skimmer?
Gas pump card skimmers are designed to look like part of the point-of-sale hardware to the inexperienced eye. They’re usually large and plastic, with arrows that don’t line up and stick out further than the machine. Because it is not a permanently attached part of the machine, the gadget may wiggle. “They tend to protrude out a little since they’re coupled to existing card readers,” Bischoff adds. “If I’m skeptical, I’ll often tug and prod the card reader to be sure.”
External skimmers aren’t the only way your credit card can be skimmed, and even surveillance experts might fall victim to gas-station con artists.
One Secret Service agent who was working on a probe into gas pump skimmers became a victim of gas pump fraud twice. Even a government employee who has been trained in this area has trouble detecting skimmers. Internally skimming gas pumps are becoming more frequent, according to Robert Siciliano, CEO of cybersecurity training company ProtectNow: “This means there is a device placed in the communication lines that intercepts the card number as it travels over the Internet.”
What are the signs that my gas pump has a skimmer?
When you go to the gas station, you’re usually worried about things like obtaining better gas mileage and not unintentionally putting diesel in a gas car. However, you should take the time to inspect the gas pump while filling your tank. There are a few telltale signals that a pump has been tampered with, including the presence of a gas pump skimmer. Follow the instructions below to inspect the point-of-sale terminal before paying at the pump.
Examine the machines in your immediate vicinity and examine the card-reading slots and keypads. Some may be equipped with credit card skimmers if they don’t appear the same.
Make sure the lockable door on the pump (where the attendant loads paper for receipts) is securely shut. There should be no irregular gaps in the casing, as this suggests manipulation. Some gas stations use tamper-resistant seals on their doors, which is something to look for. However, not all stations do.
Make certain that nothing on the POS machine wiggles. Take a few moments to double-check that everything is securely fastened.
Keep an eye out for concealed cameras that thieves may have set up to record your PIN as you enter it.
How can I keep myself safe at the gas station?
A excellent first step in preventing gas-pump fraud is to educate yourself on how to detect a credit card skimmer and what card skimmers do. As a general guideline, be alert whenever you use a public pay station or while your card is out of sight. A shop employee who takes your card into another area to complete the transaction could, for example, be dipping it into a skimmer. Pumps that aren’t visible to the gas station attendant provide a chance for thieves to affix a skimming device.
Follow the professional advice below while filling your tank to stay safe.
Choose the pump nearest to the building whenever possible. They’re the ones closest to the personnel and the ones who are least likely to have been tampered with.
If at all possible, avoid using a debit card. If you must use debit, use it as a credit card to avoid having to enter your PIN. Debit purchases deduct money from your account immediately, but credit purchases take longer to process and sometimes carry no fraud responsibility.
Because identity thieves may use skimming cards to pay for online orders without the merchant seeing the physical card, LifeLock recommends setting up alerts to notify you if your debit or credit cards are used for a $100 or more “card not present” transaction. Furthermore, Siciliano advises reviewing your statements on a regular basis, especially if you frequent crowded venues such as subways and airports.
The PIN pad should be avoided. “Use the chip or an Apple Pay–type payment system wherever possible,” Bischoff says. Swiping your credit card is riskier than using a chip-enabled card, and Apple Pay generates a unique code for each transaction, providing some built-in security.
Buy gas-station gift cards if you frequent the same petrol stations. They don’t have any of your personal information attached to them, and because they’re of small value, any losses you would suffer if a scammer obtains the numbers would be minor.
Use gas apps, which make paying at the pump safer.
What should I do if I suspect my credit card has been compromised?
If you believe your card has been skimmed, you should report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), both to safeguard others and to assist the FTC in breaking up skimming rings.
Installing mobile applications for your various accounts is a convenient way to keep track of your transactions, but regardless of how you do it, checking your statements on a regular basis is crucial, and timeliness can be the difference between paying out-of-pocket expenses and not.
Because not all credit card issuers provide fraud protection, you should notify your banking institution right away. The amount you’re liable for is determined by how promptly you notify a compromised card.