Beware skimmer scam!

pump sealskimmercollageIt’s that time of year again!  With summer drawing to a close, people will be out and about on road trips and last minute family vacations.  Undoubtedly activity at local gas stations will be on the rise.  The increase in activity will also mean more opportunities for criminals to strike.

Gas pump skimmers are a common method crooks use to steal your identity.  Here are a few tips to help you as a consumer avoid or reduce your risk of becoming a victim of a skimmer scam.

First look at the overall condition of the gas pump.  Is there anything attached to it that appears out of place?  Is there more than one card reader?  Any visible wires on the outside of the machine? Is there tape holding objects on the pump?

If you notice anything attached to the outside of the pump that appears out of place or brand new in appearance compared to the pump itself, it could be a skimmer or camera. Some externally placed skimmers will allow the transaction when placed over or near the pump card reader, but will also steal your card information at the same time.

If possible avoid gas pumps that are out of view of the store employee.  These pumps could be more easily compromised with a skimmer device since employees will not be able to see activity around the pump.  Use the pumps that are within view of the employee these may have a reduced risk of being compromised.

Check to see if the pump has a security seal placed on the access door.  If this seal is broken or gone, move on to another pump if possible. It could mean that the pump has been compromised.  If the seal is missing or broken notify the employee immediately.  If you have to use a pump with a broken seal, pay with cash or card inside and notify the employee about the condition of the gas pump.

Use a credit card instead of a debit card if possible.  Many credit cards offer better protection against most types of fraud.  Debit cards immediately withdraw money from your account.  If you have to use a debit card, run it as a credit card so you don’t have to enter a PIN.

Bluetooth skimmers. More advanced skimmers are blue-tooth capable so the crook will not even have to come and get it!  They will simply park nearby and access the blue tooth skimmer through mobile devices such as laptops or smart phones.  Others that are externally attached may have to be retrieved by the crook at some point in time.

Suspicious people.  If you see people hanging around gas pumps or pretending to be maintenance workers, inform the employees or call the police.  It could be nothing or it could be the criminal retrieving stolen information.

Credit/Debit cards. Finally, check your credit/debit cards or gas card statements regularly for any irregularities or unusual charges.  Notify the police and credit card company as soon as possible for the fraudulent charges to protect yourself and your credit.

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