Let’s face it – each day, finding new police reports and warnings from credit card networks is becoming more common. This, coupled with high gas prices, has resulted in more desperate folks looking for ways to steal and those thieves, for the time being, have found that way courtesy of a small digital device placed at gas stations around the nation. These skimmers allow fraudsters to steal all the information needed to gain access to another’s credit card information.
While it’s widespread throughout the U.S., it appears to be worse along the west coast. In some instances, the financial information is gleaned from hundreds of unsuspecting consumers at a time.
How it’s Done
Many are surprised at how easy it is to work these frauds. Simply by accessing the panel located behind the gas pump, it’s just a matter of prying it open and then installing a small electrical device that records all the necessary information to steal identities and credit card information. Once a consumer swipes his card, the information is plugged into the skimming device.
There are billions of dollars stolen each year by “skimming”, according to the government. The United States Secret Service has some advice for consumers using gas pumps and ATMs.
The agency encourages consumers to pay attention to the ATMs and gas pumps they use. If it doesn’t look right, tug the card slot to see if it’s loose. Often, thieves will install their skimming devices to the actual swiping plug. If it’s loose, look elsewhere.
Protect the Keypad
Another suggestion the law enforcement agency offers is to cover your hand after you’ve swiped your debit or credit card as you’re keying PINs or other information. This is important because, as it says, consumers never know where small surveillance cameras might be installed, ready to record a sequence of keys. While the cameras can easily catch you pinning the keypad, they’re so small these days you may not even be able to spot it, even if you’re looking for it.
Change Your PIN
Did you know you can actually change your PINs? It’s a good idea, says the agency, to do so every six months. It’s often as simple as visiting your bank, swiping it through a reader and then changing the number. Also, when your debit and credit cards expire, you can request a new card number. This is especially helpful if you feel your information might have been compromised. Many thieves will hold onto to their stolen information for months at a time. Some will use accounts until they can no longer safely do so and then move on to the next batch that was stolen earlier.
Avoid Gas Pump Swipe Plugs
As far as bypassing the potential for theft at the gas pump, pay inside. You’re less likely to be left vulnerable inside the business as thieves can’t modify those swipe machines without drawing attention to themselves. Also, a quick visual once-over at the gas pump might not reveal any possible tampering. Remember, the thieves often access the panel on the backs or sides of the gas pumps. The only thing you might notice is a loose card swipe.
As one final bit of advice, it’s suggested you use a credit card over a debit card. Interestingly enough, when you use a debit card, you run the risk of too slow of a turnaround while the bank investigates. This can result in NSF charges and a shortage of cash. Using a credit card eliminates your checking or savings account from being hit and you being without access to cash.
If you feel you’ve been a victim or are concerned about unfamiliar charges on your credit or debit cards, you should contact your bank or credit card network immediately so that you can lessen the potential damage. Also, be sure to closely examine your statements each month. Remember that if a charge goes undisputed for too long, the credit card companies and banks may have no further obligation to investigate potential theft. Your terms and conditions associated with your credit card can provide more information on those specifics. Finally, if your terms and conditions don’t spell out the liability of the bank or company, contact them and ask.