Fueling Fraud: Beware of Credit Card Skimming at the Gas Pump

How much do you really pay-at-the-pump?  If you are one of the unlucky 40,000 people in Los Angeles, or were driving in Florida, Texas , Arizona or Georgia  during the summer,  you may have paid for more than just a tank of gas.  Recently, several credit card skimming machines have been detected in gas stations across the country and garnered attention from newspapers, magazines and television stations wanting to warn consumers.

Seeing this trend, we decided to focus on credit card skimming at gas stations in our second episode of Identity Street Beat.  We wanted to know:  Do consumers know what credit card skimming is?  Are they worried?  Does it change their buying behavior?

Watch the video and see what we learned during a recent visit to a busy gas station in Atlanta …

Credit card skimming, in theory, isn’t a new threat, but the technological means in which criminals can steal your credit card information is.  And self service kiosks, such as gas pumps, are fueling the fraudsters business –especially since payments expert Richard Crone estimates 700,000 of the 1.36 million gas pumps in the U.S. accept pay at the pump.

Because universal keys are used to open gas pumps, it’s easy for someone to steal or duplicate a key and use it to open the pump at any gas station and install a device used to capture your credit card and PIN numbers.  Once placed inside, the device can’t be detected except by opening up the pump.  The fact that many of the gas pumps use wireless technology makes it even riskier because thieves can sit nearby, intercept wireless signals and download the information to their computers while consumers fill up.

As a consumer, how do you protect yourself?  Here are 5 things you can do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim:

  1. Pay Cash (Dave Ramsey would be so proud!)
  2. If using your credit or debit card, pay inside (or only where the card reader isn’t connected to the pump)
  3. Opt for 24-hour gas stations (it’s harder for thieves to place a skimmer in gas pumps that are always monitored, unless an employee of the gas station is in on the scam)
  4. Watch the attendant scan your card (sign and take your receipt with you)
  5. Monitor your credit card or bank activity online (check your account frequently – every day if possible)

And as merchant, what can you do to protect your consumers?

  1. Open up and inspect all your pay at the pump devices on a regular basis
  2. Install video camera’s to monitor pay at the pump activity
  3. Conduct thorough background checks when hiring employees
  4. Purchase merchant processing devices and services from reputable businesses
  5. Contact law enforcement if you notice suspicious behavior or find an unusual device
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