Credit card skimming at gas stations appears to be on the rise

Photo (c) A. Abejon – Getty Images

For much of 2022, consumers have endured record high gas prices at the pump. While prices have fallen, there is more to fear at gas stations than high prices. Consumers can be exposed to a number of scams every time they fill up.

Credit card skimming is one such scam that seems to be on the rise across the country. A skimmer attaches to the credit card slot on a gas pump, and rather than your credit card being read by the pump, it is read by the skimmer. The objective of the criminals is to steal the credit card information and use it for themselves to make purchases or sell the information over the Internet.

Depending on the type of pump you are on, it can sometimes be easy to spot a skimmer. They sometimes interfere with the safety tape of gas pumps or are visible outside the credit card slot. However, in recent years they have become more advanced and can steal credit card information using Bluetooth.

This is particularly a threat to motorists who use their debit cards at the gas station. Not only is this money immediately withdrawn from your bank account, but it may be more difficult to recover the money. Unfortunately, many victims of skimmers don’t realize the damage done until they check their balance weeks later.

A widespread problem

Credit card skimming at gas stations has become problematic at pumps across the country. Reports have surfaced in countless cities across the country, including: Nevada and California, Maryland, Alabama, Nebraskaand Oklahoma.

The problem is growing across the state of Oklahoma. Skimmers were identified at multiple locations in Broken Arrow, Okla., and residents were reporting fraudulent purchases on their credit cards after getting gas. A Broken Arrow resident said he lost nearly $1,000 after paying at a gas pump with a skimmer.

Skimming had a different outcome in the state of Arizona. After identifying a record 209 credit card skimmers at gas stations across the state, officials have made it a priority to protect consumer safety at the pump.

Officials have asked gas stations to install better security measures at every pump, switching from traditional credit card slots to push-pay or chip-pay machines.

As of March 2022, the Department of Agriculture’s Weights and Measures Services Division had not received any reports of credit card skimming at gas stations. While not all of these incidents are reported to authorities, enhanced security measures benefit both gas stations and consumers.

Protect yourself at the pump

Specialists of The bank rate and Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services offered some tips for consumers to protect themselves from skimmers when at the gas station. How you pay at the gas station can make a big difference.

Using a credit card versus a debit card provides better protection against skimming when going inside the gas station or convenience store to pay provides an even higher level of security higher.

The gas pump location you choose can also affect your likelihood of being caught in a skimming scam. To avoid exposure, those who plant skimmers are least likely to put them on the pumps closest to service station employees. Choosing pumps close to employees or directly in their line of sight can increase your chances of falling prey to a skimmer.

Be careful about checking your credit card and bank statements. Knowing as soon as possible if you’ve been caught by a skimmer can make it easier to recover lost money.