How to Spot Credit Card Skimmers at the Gas Pump

Introduced first in 1982, the pay-at-the-pump system is just one way we’ve streamlined the nature of transactions over time, but nowadays that convenience comes with a risk. Don’t let card skimmers trick you into swiping away personal information. Here are some quick tips for spotting credit card skimmers at the gas pump.

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Investigate – Many credit card skimming victims recall something feeling off about the slot. Before you use your card at a gas station or ATM, give the card reader a good routine once over. More importantly, grab it and give it a nice wiggle to see if it’s loose. Some skimmers attach to the tip of the card slot, so be sure to give any protruding pieces a gentle tug as well. If the card reader is loose, play it safe and pick another pump. If you ever do encounter a skimming device, contact the ATM owner and the local police as soon as possible. One single compromised gas pump can capture data from upwards or 30 to 100 cards per day.

Play It Safe – There’s no foolproof way to spot skimmers, but you can mitigate the risk by paying inside. Your best bet is to pay with cash and avoid swiping your plastic altogether. But if you’d rather pay with card, there’s still less chance of finding a skimmer on an inside payment terminal since criminals often target terminals that are more out of sight.

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Credit vs Debit – While debit cards are a convenient way to limit debt, credit cards offer better fraud protection overall. When a credit card number is skimmed, you’re protected by the card’s zero-liability policy. A stolen debit card number could yield far worse damage. When someone gets ahold of your debit card information, you have two business days to report an unauthorized transaction after discovering it. If you fail to report any fraudulent charges within that two-day window, you could be liable for up to $500. Worst case scenario, you liable for all transactions on your account if you fail to report an unauthorized card transaction that appears on your account statement within 60 days of that statement being mailed to you.

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