Beware of Card Skimmers at the Gas Station!

How many times a month do you fill your gas tank? It’s a mindless chore, but did you know it can also be the beginning of a financial nightmare? Card skimming at the gas pump is an old crime that’s made a comeback – and your debit card may be at risk!


Every day, 29 million Americans pay for fuel using a credit or debit card. However, compromised pumps with skimming devices installed are on the rise. Florida keeps track of confiscated card skimmers each year and so far in 2018 has seen a rise by 650 pumps!*


Since these skimmer devices are almost invisible, they can be really difficult to spot, enabling them to easily capture the information of up to 100 cards a day! Thanks to Bluetooth technology, the criminal doesn’t even need to return to the scene of the crime to collect the data their skimmer obtained. This technology allows for remote capture as far a 100 yards away!
Gas stations were given until 2020 to update their payment systems, so even with the rise of EMV technology, some are still vulnerable to hacks.


Protect yourself against this heinous hack by arming yourself with all you need to know about card skimmers.


How it works

Hackers choose their gas pumps wisely. They usually opt to outfit the one that is farthest from the on-site convenience shop. This way, their activity is out of the range of any security cameras at the shop’s entrance. The hacker will then place a skimming device on top of the pump’s card reader. It will usually be identical to the existing reader, with only a few and hard-to-spot differences.
Sometimes, hackers may place a skimmer inside the pump itself.  This task can be done in less than a minute. The hacker can then leave the area and access all the data being collected by the skimmer, with no one being the wiser.


Choose your payment method wisely

You may consider giving yourself extra protection by using a credit card or cash to pay at the pump. A credit card may be compromised just like a debit card, but you can easily dispute fraudulent charges made on your card. If you need to dispute a charge with your Stark Federal Credit Union Debit Card, give us a call at 330.493.8325 and we can help you out!
If you want the safest payment method, cash is a good bet. However, remember that cash cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.


How to spot a skimmer

If you don’t like the idea of carrying around wads of cash, you can still protect yourself against skimmers. Use caution while at the pump, and learn how to spot a skimmer. If something looks suspicious, move on to the next pump and report your findings to the local police as well as the gas attendant on duty.


4 ways to spot a skimmer:

  • Use your eyes. Check out the card reader very carefully and ask yourself these questions: Do the numbers on the PIN pad look raised? Do they look newer or bigger than the rest of the machine? Does anything look like it doesn’t belong? Is the fuel pump’s seal broken?
  • Check the tape. Many gas stations place serial-numbered security tape across the dispenser to protect their pumps from skimmers. If the tape is broken, or there’s no tape on the dispenser at all, it may be compromised.
  • Use your fingers. Feel the card reader before sliding your card into the slot. Do the keys feel raised? Is it difficult to insert your card? These are red flags that the card reader may  be fitted with a skimming device.
  • Use your phone. There are several free anti-skimming apps you can install on your phone, such as Skimmer Scanner. With these apps, you  scan a card reader for a skimming device and get an alert if one is detected. You can also check your phone’s Bluetooth to see if any strange letters or numbers appear under “other devices.”


General card safety

It’s always a good idea to practice general safety when using a card to pay at the pump.
Choose the pump that is closest to the store and always cover the number pad with your hand when inputting your PIN. If you haven’t yet updated to a chip card, now’s the time to do so. It’ll offer you an extra layer of protection. It’s also a good idea to periodically check your account statements for suspicious charges.
If you feel like you card was compromised by a card skimmer, or you are a victim of fraud, please give us a call at 330.493.8325.
*Accurate as of June 2018.