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How to Avoid the Credit Card Skimmer Scam

With summer vacationing in high gear, people are driving more to their destination than ever before. But, as you pull into that gas station, beware of credit card skimming and shimming scams at the gas pump.

Beware of the Skimming Scam

Skimmers are illegal credit card readers attached to payment terminals. These card readers grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe when you swipe your card without your knowledge. Criminals sell the stolen data or use it to make online purchases. You won’t know your information has been stolen until you get a call from your bank, see it on your statement or an overdraft notice.

New skimming devices are harder to detect. A 2020 survey found that 31% of participants believe they were victims of skimming at some point during the past year–an increase of 23% in 2019 and 15% in 2018. Here are a few tips to help you avoid a skimmer when you gas up for your next road trip:

  • Make sure the gas pump panel doesn’t show signs of tampering.

  • Look at the type of credit card reader. Does it look different than all other readers at the other pumps?

  • Be cautious if your card gets stuck in a chip reader.

  • Use contactless payment methods.

  • Make the payment inside with the service attendant.

  • Wiggle the card slot. If it doesn’t seem secure, move to another pump.

  • When using a PIN code, place your hand over the keyboard to shield the numbers.

  • If using a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of entering a PIN so money isn’t immediately deducted from your account.

Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges. If your credit card has been compromised, report it to your bank or card issuer.

Protect Yourself from the Shimming Scam

Chip-based credit cards are the safest to use when paying at the pump, However, “shimming” is a technique that scammers for these types of cards. The scam device sits between the reading device and the chip on the card you insert. Shimmers are harder to detect because they are paper-thin devices that sit inside the reader hidden from plain sight. The device is hidden from view and is hard to detect. The scammer can create a clone of the card’s magnetic strip from a shimming device.

Being aware of how to prevent this type of scam will help you have a safe and enjoyable trip when venturing out. For additional resources on how to prevent these scams:

Federal Trade Commission

Readers Digest