Almost every gas station has the option to pay for your fuel at the pump by using your debit or credit card, but is it safe to do so? Devices called “skimmers” are one threat that can compromise the safety of your bank account, and can be present right on the pump you use every day.
It’s a problem that’s increasing in occurrence around the country. Thieves nabbing your debit card or credit card details. Clever criminals are using new technology to get the details of your bank account without even having to interact with the machine.
“These devices are essentially fitted on top of, or in place of regular card readers,” says Miranda Perry from Scambook, an online consumer complaint resolution site.
“It’s worrying that they’re now becoming more common on pumps” she says. “We used to see them exclusively on ATMs, but the technology has advanced and they can put them almost anywhere.
How often do you pay for gas at the pump using a credit or debit card? You might be at risk of a compromised account.
“These devices are capable of picking up all the information on your card and your PIN number as well.”
Perry and Scambook is advising consumers to be wary of these skimmers, which can be set up and left alone; transmitting information via Bluetooth. This means that thieves can potentially set up a skimming device and never return to the gas pump.
Not only that but they’re becoming far more common these days. “We’re definitely seeing more warnings from local law enforcement,” says Perry, “And usually the thieves start off in smaller cities.”
The Scambook cites an example from Oklahoma, where two thieves used skimmers at Murphy’s gas pumps for nearly two months before being caught. The total money swiped? $400,000.
It’s advised that consumers should carefully inspect the card reader at the gas station before inserting their card or pin number. If it looks shifty, or has been tampered with, then maybe it’s a better idea to pay in the store, or with cash.
“There’s a few signs that hint at a skimmer” warns Perry. “Usually they will accept any PIN number you enter in.”
Take a close look at the card readers at the other pumps at the gas station? Does yours appear shoddy compared to other pumps, or is it a different size or color? If so, bring it up with the gas station attendant.
Despite the added convenience and speed of using a card at the pump, it might not be as safe as you’d hope. If you’re suspicious of a card reader at a gas pump, be sure to tell the owners and alert the authorities.
“Ideally I’d advise everyone to use cash or a pre-paid credit card,” says Perry. A pre-paid credit card is a good way to budget your gas-expenses for a road trip, and keeps your bank account safe from high-tech thieves.