A common scam at many gas stations across the country is the use of a card skimmer. Card skimmers cost consumers over $1 billion dollars each year. In order to avoid falling prey to this tactic, you can take specific steps to avoid getting scammed by unscrupulous individuals.
What Is Card Skimming?
Thieves have been using card skimmers for years to fleece gas station customers out of billions of dollars. A card skimmer fits over a card swipe mechanism on the gas pump at gas stations. When you swipe your card, the card skimmer captures and stores the details of your card.
These details include the card number, the card holder’s name, and the expiration date. This data is then used to purchase items online or with a counterfeit credit card. Worse yet, sometimes the thieves who obtain your card information sell it online. Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent your information from being stolen at the gas pump.
Avoid Paying at the Pump
To start, you can prevent card skimming by paying the cashier for your gas. If you do pay at the cashier, you still need to remain aware of fraud and identity theft. Some cashiers work with mobile card skimmers and could steal your information even at the cash register. So, watch the cashier closely when you pay at the register.
Use Another Payment Option
If you must pay at the pump, then you are better off using another method of payment, such as a credit card. The best thing about credit cards is the zero liability that they offer. This policy, which is a condition of your credit card agreement, says that you are not responsible for unauthorized charges on your card.
Check Out the Pump Before Inserting Your Card
Before paying at the gas pump you should examine the card reader at the pump, including looking at it and feeling it with your hands. Start by using your eyes. If it is a gas pump you have used before, does it look different than usual? Also check out the seal on the pump to make sure it is still in place.
You should also use your fingers. Try wiggling the card reader to check it for looseness. Trouble inserting your card when you use the reader is another sign of a card skimmer. If anything feels off about the card reader at the pump, bring it to the cashier’s attention.
Use an App
You can use apps in a few ways with a gas pump. The first is to use a digital wallet app to pay for your fuel. Another type of app can give you alerts if it detects a card skimmer device in your area. It does this by scanning the available Bluetooth connections and attempts to connect to any devices. Depending on the devices response, the app can determine if the card reader is a skimmer or not.
Use Pumps Within Sight of the Clerk
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Another option to prevent the theft of your debit card information is to use a pump in the line of sight of the clerk. This means avoiding pumps on the outer edges of the gas station, especially those that face away from the building. You should also cover the keypad when you enter your PIN to conceal it from any cameras would-be-thieves might place around the card reader.