Identity thieves stole more than 16 billion dollars in 2016.
And that number just keeps going up.
I’m sure you’ve taken steps to protect your identity, but what about at the gas station? If you’ve never thought about it, that’s okay. We’ve compiled 9 tried and true ways to protect your credit card at gas station pumps.
Let’s get started!
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1. Watch out for Credit Card Skimmers
One of the most common tools thieves use to steal your credit card information at gas stations is a skimmer.
What is it?
A skimmer is an external device placed over a real credit card slot. Then, when you slide your card, your credit card information is immediately saved.
Always inspect the credit card slot before inserting your card. Does it look different than the rest of the slots at the station? It could definitely be a skimmer.
Also, remember that skimmers are a temporary device, so often they are only attached with double-sided tape. Tug on the reader before you insert your card to see if there is a skimmer attached or not.
If a skimmer detaches, alert the authorities immediately and use a different pump at the station. Studies have shown that usually thieves only install one skimmer per station in order to not get caught, so you should be fine using a different pump.
2. Always Run Your Transaction as a Credit Card Purchase
This is one of the simplest but most effective ways to minimize your potential loss from credit card thieves.
Even if you’re using a debit card, run your transaction as a credit card purchase.
This is because if thieves can access your debit card, they have direct access to your bank account funds. But if you notice a strange transaction on your credit card, it’s much easier to minimize your losses since it’s not coming directly out of your account.
However, if you do notice a transaction you didn’t make on your credit card statement, report it immediately to your credit card company.
Most will reimburse your fraudulent charges, but some are better than others. We can help you find a card with great security benefits.
3. Only Use Well-Maintained Gas Stations
I mean, it’s pretty common sense.
If a service station looks taken care of, then it’s highly likely the owners are regularly inspecting their pumps as well.
As you’re choosing a gas station, notice how it looks. Is it in good shape? If so, you should be safe using pumps.
4. Check for Tamper-Evident Stickers
It’s a fact: the majority of gas station credit card fraud happens by criminals breaking into the front panel of gas pumps. They then insert a card reading device before closing the panel.
What can you do to make sure your pump hasn’t been tampered with? Check the edges of the pump, especially around the credit card unit. If the lock is broken or if the unit looks especially battered, this is your first clue something might be wrong!
Additionally, many gas stations are now implementing tamper-proof stickers across the opening of the credit card unit. That way, if the seal has been broken, the word VOID appears.
Before you use a gas pump, check to see if there is a tamper-evident sticker, keeping an eye out to see if it has been voided.
If it has, don’t use it! Alert the gas station attendant and the authorities as soon as possible.
5. Block Pinhole Cameras
Pinhole cameras are yet another way thieves can steal your information from your credit card at gas station pumps.
What are they?
Pinhole cameras are tiny cameras, usually placed above the keypad. And often they’re used with skimmers. That way criminals can get your debit card information and your PIN, having instant access to your bank account.
Well, what can you do to prevent this from being a problem?
First off, use a credit card at gas station pumps whenever you can. If that’s not possible, always scan the face of the gas pump and notice if there is anything different than the other pumps at that station.
Another tip is to use one hand to enter your information on the keypad and then place your other hand above the screen to block the view of potential pinhole cameras above.
6. Pick the Gas Pump Closest to the Cashier
This may seem simple, but it works.
If you can, always choose the pump closest to the cashier or convenience store entrance. This is because thieves are less likely to put pinhole cameras or skimmers in places so close to a gas station employee.
Still be cautious, though, and always check any pump before inserting your card.
7. Use an App to Protect Your Credit Card at Gas Station Pumps
In 2017, a free app was released for Android phones that scans for possible credit card skimmers.
How does it work?
It scans the area for Bluetooth connections, looking for devices with the title HC-05. The app can then send a message to the device to discover whether or not a skimmer is in close range.
If the answer is positive, find a different pump or go to a different station.
Many thieves now use Bluetooth devices to steal credit card data which then sends it directly to their database, so this app is a huge step forward in terms of gas station credit card security.
If you have an Android phone, definitely consider downloading this app!
8. Still Unsure? Use Cash
At the end of the day, there are some situations where you still might feel unsure about using your credit card at the gas station.
If something still feels off, just use cash. Follow your instincts.
It could save you a future of long-term credit damage or having to dispute fraudulent card charges.
9. Don’t Have Cash? Pay Inside
What if you’re feeling uneasy about using the credit card machine at the pump but don’t have any cash on you?
Just take care of the transaction with the gas station attendant. There still is a small risk that the employee is using a credit card skimmer, but that risk is so small compared to the risk of using a tampered pump.
So there you have it: 9 surefire ways to help you protect your credit card at gas station pumps. Do these and you should be safe.
If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us for more information.
We can’t wait to help!