It’s summertime, and that means time for fun family vacations! Unfortunately, it also means an increased risk for you to have your information stolen by a card skimmer when you use your credit or debit card at the gas pump.
Credit/debit card skimmers are relatively cheap for thieves to build, and once they steal your information, it can cost you lots of money. It takes as little as a minute for someone to break open the gas pump and set up the skimmer. What’s worse is that you can’t necessarily tell from the outside that the pump has been tampered with. Scary, right?
What can you do to protect yourself?
Use your credit card at the pump, or select “credit” before you insert your debit card. Many skimmers not only pull your card number when you swipe, but they may track your keypad entries, too. If a thief gets ahold of your debit card number and PIN, it’s not as easy to prove it wasn’t you who drained the account because only you should know the PIN. When you use a credit card or run your debit card as “credit,” you enter your ZIP code instead. Always cover your hand over the keypad when entering your PIN or zip code.
Fill up at a station closer to the attendant. They are less likely to have been tampered with.
Check to make sure that there’s a lock and/or security tape on the pump and that it’s still intact. If either is broken, don’t use it!
If there is an external card reader (one that sticks out of the machine), firmly but not too harshly jiggle the card reader itself. It shouldn’t move. Many times skimmers are taped on with double-stick tape and either wiggle or come off easily when pulled.
Run your fingernail around the edge of the keypad to make sure it’s firm and secure. Some thieves install keypad overlays to track your PIN entry. These overlays have a tendency to be loose and wiggle.
Download the free SecurLOCK™ Equip app from your smartphone’s app store today, so you can receive transaction alerts and know if someone else is using your card. And, if you do suspect fraudulent use, you can turn your card off until you notify the bank.
What should you do if you find a skimmer?
Tell the attendant. Ask them to take the machine offline and report it to the police.
If you already inserted your card, call your bank immediately and explain the situation. They will help you determine if you should cancel your card or not.
Remember – better safe than sorry. If anything about the gas pump (or an ATM for that matter) doesn’t seem right, use another. Enjoy your vacation!