Card skimmers are becoming more and more common at gas pumps across the nation. Skimmers are external devices that thieves attach over a real credit card slot at a gas station pump to steal your information. As customers swipe their cards into the skimmer, the device saves and stores card information immediately.
How do you protect yourself against card skimming?
Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read “VOID.” If you see a sticker that reads “VOID” move onto the next pump or station and inform the gas attendant and local authorities.
When at the pump, look at the card reader itself. Does the card reader at your pump look the same as others at the gas station? If you aren’t able to get a good look at other readers, try to wiggle the card reader before you insert your card. If the card reader moves at all, report it to the attendant and use a different pump. The reader should be rigid and permanently attached to the machine. Most skimming devices are designed to be temporarily affixed to the gas pump so they can be easily retrieved by thieves.
Use a credit card, not a debit card, when you pay. Even though you are protected by a card’s zero-liability policy, coverage on a credit card vs. a debit card aren’t always the same, and could yield far worse damage on a debit card.
If you use a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of entering a PIN. That way, your PIN is safe and the money isn’t deducted immediately from your account.
Use the pump closest to the cashier
If you have a choice of pumps, choose the pump closest to the cashier. Criminals are less likely to apply credit card skimmers or other criminal tools close to the attendant.
While credit cards lend convenience, if a situation just doesn’t feel right, go with your instincts and just use cash.
Pay inside rather than at the pump. There is less chance a fraudster placed a card skimmer on the payment terminal in front of the clerk inside.
Check your bank or credit card statements regularly to spot any unauthorized charges.
Online banking and mobile banking apps allow you to easily check your account balances daily.
Text banking is another great way to stay on top of your account information by setting up text alerts.
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What to do if your debit or credit card was skimmed?
If your debit or credit card has been compromised, contact your credit card issuer or bank immediately. Federal law limits your liability if a credit, ATM, or debit card is lost or stolen, but your liability may depend on how quickly you report the loss or theft.