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Avoid skimmers at the pump

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Skimmers are illegal card readers attached to payment terminals — like gas pumps — that grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without your knowledge. Criminals sell the stolen data or use it to buy things online. You won’t know your information has been stolen until you get your statement or an overdraft notice.

Skimmers are nothing new, but technology has made them smaller and harder to find. Sometimes, they’re even hidden inside a gas pump.

Here are tips to help you avoid a skimmer when you gas up:

  • Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel. This is part of a voluntary program by the industry to thwart gas pump tampering. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read "void," which means the machine has been tampered with.

Photo credit: National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and Conexxus

  • Take a good look at the card reader itself. Does it look different than other readers at the station? For example, the card reader on the left has a skimmer attached; the reader on the right doesn’t.

Photo credit: Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Kamloops, Canada

You can try to wiggle the card reader before you put in your card. If it moves, report it to the attendant. Then use a different pump.

  • If you use a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of entering a PIN. That way, the PIN is safe and the money isn’t deducted immediately from your account. If that’s not an option, cover your hand when entering your PIN. Scammers sometimes use tiny pinhole cameras, situated above the keypad area, to record PIN entries.
  • Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges.
  • If you're really concerned about skimmers, you can pay inside rather than at the pump. Another option is to use a gas pump near the front of the store. Thieves may target gas pumps that are harder for the attendant to see.

If your credit card has been compromised, report it to your bank or card issuer. Federal law limits your liability if your credit, ATM, or debit card is lost or stolen, but your liability may depend on how quickly you report the loss or theft. For more information, read Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards.

Consider placing a fraud alert or a credit freeze on your credit report. This requires businesses to confirm your identity before approving applications in your name.

If you think you see a scam, talk with someone. Your story could help someone avoid that scam. Then report it to FTC.


Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


this has been happening all over Columbus, Ohio. ID Theft and credit card theft has been happening all over Columbus, Ohio.

It may of happened to me as my credit card info was recently stolen. Great tips Bill

There are times when it is a lot safer to use cash instead of going through with these skimmers at the gas pumps.
But it pays to be aware and have a heads up attitude when paying for gas anytime at all.

It is also a good idea to avoid using 3rd party ATMs. These are ATM machines stood up in convenience stores or popular public venues such as sports arenas or tourist attractions. There is no guarantee these ATMs have the same levels of security built in like the ATMs of legitimate commercial banks.

If there's any question about the security of the device, don't use it. If you must, at least keep your receipts.

great info's.......I use Walmart - Exxon or BP Gift can NOT trust nobody anymore.....

that's an awesome idea!

Excellent Article.

Businesses need to protect the consumer better.

the businesses are trying to do something but what do they do these people don't get out during the day and blatantly open the pumps they pull up to the pump and the skimmer goes inside and they wifi it back with all the numbers when they go by according to the local sheriff I spoke to. Best option go inside the station pay with the clerk

Businesses can do only so much, provided that they aren't the ones doing the scamming themselves. The Trump administration is trying to almost shut down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that exists, thanks to Sen. Elizabeth Warren for its creation, so it's very important to have your senators & representatives be told that you want it to always remain,
Another tip: If the gas station attendant said that he/she will hold onto the credit card inside the store while you pump your gas, say 'no' or mention a dollar amount & sign the receipt & take your credit card right away.

Good info, thanks

I learned about skimmers a while back and vowed to never use a gas pump card reader again. I always go inside to pay for my gas. The trick is to not pump gas when the station is closed and to always, always plan ahead when filling up. Pay inside...

Um..... Wouldn't it be theft if you pumped gas when the station is closed?

Not necessarily. If the pump has a card reader, it's perfectly legal to gas up after hours as long as you do, in fact, pay at the pump using either a credit or debit card in the card reader. In fact, the gas pumps at one of the stations I use most frequently won't work unless a card is used at the pump or you pay the attendant first so he/she can do whatever it is they do to allow the pump to work.

most if not all gas stations turn their pumps off after closing.

I’m not sure where you’re from, but here in Hawaii, almost none of our gas stations close the pumps. Ever. This sounds ridiculous to me. What if someone needed gas at 1am on their way to or from work?

Most gas stations have after-hour pumps. The station may be closed, but you can use debit/credit cards at the pump without them being open 24 hours.

There is a gas station in my city that you can buy gas 24 hours a day. The office is closed between 10 PM and 6 AM every day with a credit card.

Also, there are some privately owned truck fueling stations with pumps open 24 hours a day where you can buy gasoline even though the office is closed.

If a pump doesn't have the tamper tape on it, I always study the credit card slot, and try to move it.

Most important, is I have all my credit card and bank account preferences set to email and/or text me whenever more than $1.00 is charged on one of my cards. Notification comes within one minute. Drives my wife nuts because I see whenever she buys something on credit card :-)

can you show us some examples of a security seal: how it looks like? the photo is not clear enough; I see it is a red tape but cannot read the text; and where it is? on top of the card reader?? Thanks..

When the seal is secure, you see the words "Security Seal" typed on the seal.

If the seal has been tampered with, the words "Security Seal" are faded, and you see the word VOID on part of the red tape.

Of course, all these perps have to do is put a “new” fake “security seal” look-alike to cover their tracks...

It should be mandatory that all pumps be equipped with security seals over the cabinet panels. Why wouldn't it? The industry certainly can afford to do so and should be fined if noncompliant.

Unfortunately, it's a voluntary program; and since we now have a government that wants to do away with ALL regulations, don't hold your breath.

I think a better suggestion is for the companies that want to show us they care can roll out new equipment and not have the service stations be burdened by the cost. Then consumers could choose who they do business with based on trust of protection.

In order for your idea to get the attention of gas station owners and CEOs of oil companies? Collectively consumers would have to boycott the companies and stations in question. But the truth is we all are like gasoline crack addicts. And big oil doesn't care! Until Congress starts actually cares and US citizens collectively park the car,RV, motorcycle for a month? But try writing your Congressman!

Wonderful. I have been wondering why banks have not had visuals and internet sites to show what they look like.

Glad to see the photos-now I know a couple things to look for!

There must be a financial gain in the biggest way. Claiming loss. Smart people elaborate

Use cash instead of cards for gas outside pumps are not secure. Plus some stations give cheaper gas if u use cash.

Wonderful article and feedback! I have learned something today! Thank you!

Great site, thanks

Thank you for the information and pictures. I have always wondered what a skimmer looked like. I did not know what to look for before now I do.

Great info


The best part of this article is the picture of the security seal: normal vs tampered with. I have always wondered what a tampered security seal looked like.

My card was skimmed at Hertz rent a car at LAX airport location. They tried to get $2500 the next day but CC stopped it.

Yep, happened to me at a Costco in Vancouver WA.

That should be easy to trace though... if it was inside the store, you would have info on your receipt as to the cashier. If it was outside, they can roll back camera to see the particular pump and hopefully see whoever put the scammer on there.
I hope you were able to get your money back!

Another problem is thieves coming to steal out of the open window or door on the opposite side of your car. There have been a rash of these in the Southeast. People leave their cars to pump gas and the thief strikes while the target is distracted.

I think businesses are chasing their tales already, to the point of playing Wack A Mole with these creeps.I feel like we have to take some responsibility. This article is a good start to help arm us with some knowledge.
There is a limit to how vulnerable someone can be before they are just considered negligent of themselves.

One more downside to fossil fuels. Give me a draft horse, any day. They're intelligent companions that grow their own replacements, consume grass, fertilize the garden, can learn to do many cool tricks, including hauling very heavy stuff in several types of harnesses and rigs. No license, insurance, gas.

but then you will need a barn,oats, and hay. and clean up crew.

What about the Speed Pass wand thing that you can use at the pump? Are they safer? They are offered from Exxon.

Thanks FTC! Great public service.

Thanks for the heads up info so formative.

How about having the volunteers put large signs on the pumps picturing the valid and tampered seals and suggesting to find another station if there are no seals. May help the non compliant stations to join the seal using stations if they lose enough business for not having seals.

Gas station owners should be responsible for checking their equipment at lease twice every 24 hours.Make it part of the cashiers daily responsibility.

It wouldn't be a surprise if the cashiers are in on the take!

This has been going on for years. I have followed every protocol and put in place everything I know possible. Between Blogs, FTC alerts, Bank Security, Credit Reports, Anti Virus apps, Malware Apps, even cover the camera on computer. I am getting so angry that I am having to spend more time trying to protect myself and business from all this crap and it's constantly changing. Instead of trying to promote business via Social Media, Facebook, etc., I had to shut down those marketing tools because of all the issues with other people I know getting their Bank accounts hacked into. Pretty sad when you feel like you're fighting a losing battle and spend more time on the battle field then time at growing your business and trying to make enough money to so you can pay your bills and start living above poverty level. I think it's really sad when we have to pay a company to monitor security on our lives. The more our society relies on all these electronic devices the worse it gets. Even kids today have to have electronics as soon as they are born. I'm sorry if I offend anyone, but I came from a generation that has done it old school and had to adapt to the new ways to make a living in today's world. About 90% of the people I grew up with, no computers or cell phones, at least not until we were in mid 20's have real life experience, values, higher education and at least 50% have careers making over 6 figures. Kids today may know computers, but how many are on Adderall medication for ADD and they can barley stay focused on one thing for more then 5 minutes. Those kids are not ADD, they are deprived of having one on one personal attention by parents or their care taker. Yes, I speak from experience and have Fostered children in need. Life isn't about how much MATERIAL STUFF you have to show self worth. Been there, and downsized. The more things, the more to take care of, the more stress you cause yourself and for end up not having any time to enjoy half of it. People are who is important and who makes a difference in life and people are who you make memories with and have good times. Is boating, sports, etc.... any fun to do by yourself. Get my point. We need to stop this Electronic nightmare. BTW, by the year 2020, so many people will be out of jobs because machines and Robots are going to be replacing people. People that agree with me need to stick together.


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