In today’s post, Intersections’ Consumer Security Advisor Neal O’Farrell outlines 10 things you need to know about gas pump skimming operations.
In case you hadn't heard, gas pump skimming is on the rise and probably coming soon to a gas station near you. Skimming is where thieves replace the card reader on a gas pump or ATM with their own reader so that any time you use a card with a compromised reader, you're handing everything on your card (and maybe even your pin too) to the thieves.
So in order to help you better understand the dangers, I've put together a list of things you might want to know about gas pump skimming. It's not exhaustive, and it's not scientific. The claims are not based on any particular studies or statistics, but rather on anecdotal evidence gathered by watching the crime blossom across the country over the last few years.
1. It's almost impossible to detect because unlike ATM skimming, gas pump skimmers are hidden inside the pump.
2. It's more likely to happen in warm states because the cold weather can affect the installation of the skimming devices.
3. It's more likely to happen at busy gas stations, where employees don't have time to watch every visitor or customer; and less likely to happen at 24-hour stations because it's much easier for thieves to visit a closed gas station in the dead of night to install the skimmer.
4. It's more likely to happen during the summer months because there are more people traveling on the roads, they're too busy heading to their destination to pay enough attention, there are more potential victims on the move, and busy gas station employees have less time to check pumps or watch for thieves.
5. It's more likely to happen where there's high unemployment and transient workers, who may be more easily persuaded to take the big risks, like installing the skimmers.
6. It's only going to get worse, because it's enormously profitable, easy to commit, and the thieves are unlikely to be caught.
7. Organized crime gangs, local and international, are increasingly focusing on skimming because it's so lucrative. That probably means the attacks will become even tougher to stop or to spot.
8. Insiders are a big threat because they often have access to the keys that open the pumps, can turn off surveillance cameras, and easily install and remove skimming devices when no-one's looking.
9. Your safest bet is to pay with a credit card (not a debit card), pay inside and not at the pump, or pay with cash.
10. The first hint most victims have that they're a victim of gas pump skimming is when they check their credit card or bank statement and spot charges that just don't add up.
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