Most of us are feeling a bit on edge about gas prices lately. So the last thing you need is even more trouble at the gas pump! But that’s exactly what can happen if you accidentally use a credit card machine that has been equipped with something called a “skimmer” that steals your card number and information.

What is a card skimmer? Crooks can quickly install a skimmer into a credit card machine in just a few seconds. The device fits inside the part where you insert your card, and reads the magnetic strip on credit and debit cards. You might assume that everything is fine, because your gas purchase is processed as usual. But the skimmer has captured your information, and the con artist can use it to create a duplicate card.

Hopefully, you have fraud protection on your credit cards. But that protection can be limited, based upon the circumstances. And debit cards include no such protection in many cases. If anyone gets ahold of your debit card information, your bank account could be drained overnight.

How do you recognize a card skimmer? You might notice the plastic edges of a device sticking out of the credit card machine. It might be loose and wiggly, or display arrows that don’t quite line up correctly.

How to protect yourself from card skimmers. The easiest way to protect yourself from card skimmer is to pay inside the gas station. But sometimes that won’t be an option, or you might prefer the speed and convenience of paying outside. These tips can help you to avoid skimmers:

  • Choose the pump closest to the building
  • Use a credit card instead of debit
  • Glance at the machines around you, and compare with the one you’re about to use
  • Pull gently on the part of the machine where you insert your card; a skimmer often wiggles or pops right off
  • If you frequent the same station regularly, use a reloadable gas card from them
  • Switch to using a chip card, Apple pay, or your favorite gas station’s app
  • Regularly check your card account for unrecognized purchases

And whether or not you use a card to pay at the pump, monitoring your credit on a regular basis is a great idea for anyone. This will tell you whether new accounts have been opened in your name, and help you keep your identity safe.

If you have any other questions about protecting yourself and your finances, please don’t hesitate to call us.