Protecting Yourself at the Pump

Purchasing fuel may now be costing you your personal information. Scammers are installing skimmers on gas station pumps in order to steal card and personal information.

Skimmers are devices that copy credit or debit card numbers whilst customers pay. Most consumers are under the impression that they are simply paying for their gas because nothing registers incorrectly at the pump. A skimmer places the actual strip scanner inside the pump, so the victim is still able to pay for their fuel as usual. Unfortunately, as they slide their card through, the card must, unavoidably, pass through the skimmer in order to get to the true scanner in the machine. Later on, the customer discovers that their account has been hacked and they are facing charges that are not their own, all because of a small device at their gas station.

How are thieves able to install these devices at gas pumps? By purchasing a commercially available gas pump key online. Thieves can then use that key to open the service box on the pump and install the skimmer.

Fraudsters can take the information they steal and use it to print fraudulent credit cards and make purchases. Matthew O’Neill, the assistant to the special agent in charge of the Criminal Investigative Division told ABC News:

They’re monetizing the stolen payment card data in multiple ways and the easiest way is they’ll take the stolen payment card number and will re-encode a gift card or credit card and then they will use that to buy electronics, gift cards, stuff that they can fence on grey market, the black market or the open market.”

In addition, the criminals stealing this information can sell the data online to other individuals, allowing more people access to the information.

However, there are a few ways to spot skimmers and precautions that every consumer can take to reduce the likelihood that they will fall victim to this sort of scam.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that consumers, “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. This is part of a voluntary program by the industry to thwart gas pump tampering. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read “void,” which means the machine has been tampered with.”

The FTC also suggested that consumers check the other card readers at the station to determine if a skimmer has been attached to the outside of the card scanner. Customers can also try wiggling the card scanner to see if it is loose. If it is, reporting the scanner and using another pump is highly recommended. One way to mitigate the skimmer-at-the-pump scenario entirely is to simply pay inside.

If there is a concern about the safety of personal information or if someone believes that their credit card has been compromised, the FTC encourages victims to report it to the bank. “Federal law limits your liability if your credit, ATM, or debit card is lost or stolen, but your liability may depend on how quickly you report the loss or theft.”

It is also recommended that consumers consider placing a credit freeze on their accounts if they believe their personal information has been stolen. This will prevent companies from accessing credit scores and payment histories and will keep crooks from opening new lines of credit under the name of the victim.

If you, or someone you know, would like to learn more about credit freezes and what they entail, read Freeze Criminals out of your Credit Line.

Image from Pexels.com

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