Most consumers are aware of the possibility of credit card fraud when shopping online or at their favorite stores, but it’s important to also protect yourself from credit and debit card fraud at gas stations in the form of skimming. Skimmers are illegal card readers that steal data from a credit or debit card that is swiped when making a purchase. Here are a few things you can do to avoid getting skimmed!
Select smart: The first step toward a secure transaction happens before you even get out of your car. Always choose a pump with high visibility to the cashier. Criminals are more likely to tamper with pumps at the far reaches of the station that attendants can’t easily monitor.
Phone it in: Your cell phone offers a great first line of defense. Thieves often utilize Bluetooth technology to transmit card and PIN information. Just turn on Bluetooth and search for a device. If you see a long stream of numbers trying to connect, beware–someone could be trying to obtain your information.
Be aware and compare: Does the reader at your pump look different than the others around it? Does it have any noticeable damage? Many stations apply a tamper-resistant seal across the cabinet panel. If it has been broken into, the label will read "void.”
Pay wisely: Consider using credit over debit when filling up your tank. If using your debit card, make sure to run it as a credit card to avoid entering your PIN. Cash and mobile pay are always safe options, too. If you are at all unsure about the card reader, go inside and pay directly. Make sure to report your concerns to the gas station attendant, too.
There’s an app for that: Apps that control and monitor your debit card transactions can also offer tremendous protection. For example, MobiMoneyTM offers a feature that will decline any transaction made outside of a five-mile radius of your phone, which protects you from fraudulent purchases.
The Bottom Line: Paying at the pump is convenient—just make sure you protect yourself by following these simple security precautions.