According to the FBI, it’s estimated that skimming costs financial institutions and consumers more than $1 billion each year. Skimming occurs when devices are illegally installed on fuel pumps. These include fake keypads or card reader extensions which steal card info when you slide it into the slot. Thieves may also have hidden cameras above the terminal to record PIN numbers. While not often easily detectable, there are things you can do to lessen the risk of using a pump that has a skimmer:
- Check the pump for tampering: Thieves typically have a universal key that they use to open the door on the gas pump. Fortunately, many gas stations place a tamper-resistant seal on the door. If you see that the tamper strip is broken, use a different pump.
- Inspect the card slot and keypad: Inspect the card slot by wiggling it with your hand, if it is loose, then it could be a skimmer. Also, if the keypad looks thicker than normal, wiggle that too and check if it comes loose. If either of these parts does come loose, then use another pump.
- Look for hidden cameras: Some thieves use cameras to steal PIN codes from customers. Check for tiny pinhole cameras or false screen shades above the screen on the pump. If anything, be sure to cover the keypad with your hand to block any potential cameras from seeing your PIN code.
- Use the gas pump closest to the store – Since thieves would rather stay out of sight of the employee inside the store, they will usually install a skimmer farther away from it.
- Consider paying inside with the attendant – Although, not as convenient, avoiding putting your card into a gas pump altogether is the safest way to eliminate skimming.
Be sure to monitor your bank account to be sure you don’t have any unauthorized charges. If you do suspect you’ve been a victim of skimming, contact the card issuer right away. If you use the CardValet app, be sure to turn that card off so the thief cannot use your card information to make more purchases.
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