Paying for gas with a credit or debit card is quick and convenient. However, when doing so, you could unknowingly be giving your payment card information to scammers through a process called skimming.
What is a Skimmer?
A skimmer is a malicious card reader that is designed to pull data off the magnetic strips of payment cards. Typically, criminals secretly install these devices at ATMs and fuel pumps to easily steal personal and payment card information.
Because skimmers are usually smaller than a deck of cards and fit securely over approved card readers, they can be hard to spot. It only takes one swipe to lose your information to criminals, so it’s important to arm yourself with the proper safety tips.
Here’s how gas pump skimming works:
How Do I Keep My Information Safe?
To protect your payment cards from being stolen by a skimmer, do the following:
- Use credit instead of debit so criminals can’t drain your bank account.
- Use fuel dispensers that are close to the store or security cameras.
- Use well-maintained service stations in safe neighbourhoods.
- Examine card readers before using them by pulling on the console to see if it’s loose.
- Pay inside with cash or credit.
Identifying a skimmer can be difficult, as they are designed to blend in with approved devices. Before inserting your card, look to see if there are any loose wires or if the card reader is a different colour than the surrounding panels. If you suspect that there’s a skimmer installed at the pump, notify the attendant and the authorities.