The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers to be alert for credit card skimmers. Skimmers are illegal card readers attached to a payment terminal, such as a gas pump or an ATM machine. Identity thieves can use data obtained from cards passed through a skimmer to make online purchases. Gas pumps are particularly attractive to thieves because many do not yet use the more secure chip-card readers. Also, newer skimmers are smaller and harder to detect. Thieves can even hide one inside a gas pump.
Look for these signs that the gas pump you are about to use has a skimmer attached to it:
- The gas pump panel is not completely closed. Many gas stations use a security seal over the cabinet panel as an added protection. If someone opened the panel, the label will read “void.”
- The card reader on the pump looks different from the card readers on other pumps at the station.
- The card reader feels loose or moves when you touch it. Do not use a pump with a loose reader, and report your suspicions to the gas station attendant.
Additional payment precautions you can take at a gas station include:
- Use a credit card rather than a debit card so you do not expose your personal identification number (PIN) entry. If you must use a debit card, cover your hand when entering your PIN.
- Pay inside.
- Choose a pump located where attendants are more likely to see someone tampering with it.
It is a good practice to regularly monitor your credit card and bank accounts. Immediately report any unauthorized charges to your bank or credit card issuer.