Here’s how to spot a credit card skimmer at the gas pump

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It’s not something you might think about, but you could get your credit card hacked or your personal information stolen while filling up your gas tank.

How? By inadvertently swiping your card through something called a credit card skimmer, a device thieves use to access your card information.

You could find yourself with dozens of fraudulent charges on your next statement, all because you ran out of gas and needed to fill up.

These illegal devices are all over the place, so luckily the authorities know what they’re dealing with and can inform the public.

Here’s what you should watch out for.

Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

Remote gas stations

Out-of-the way pumps where nobody is around to spot suspicious activity are more likely to have been tampered with than a gas station on a busy street corner.

Sometimes you can’t avoid filling up when you’re on a road trip or a long drive, so when in doubt, pay with cash or card inside.

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Broken or wiggly card readers

If something looks off, it probably is. Try wiggling the keypad or the actual card insert; if it’s loose or seems like it might have been tampered with, don’t use it.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs also suggests consumers scan the keypad for strange, raised surfaces or color—the keypad could have been tampered with to capture personal information as it’s typed in.

Getty Images | Joe Raedle

Additionally, some gas pumps have a border of security tape around the card reader. If that seal is broken or punctured, it’s a sign the reader could be compromised.

The same rules apply to ATMs, which is handy if you’re in the habit of regularly withdrawing cash.

“You’re not going to damage or destroy an ATM by pulling on it and checking to make sure there’s nothing wrong with it,” Lieutenant Jason Fetner from Cowetta County, Georgia told WTVM News Leader 9.

Strange cameras

Okay, this isn’t technically a sign of a credit card skimmer, but it definitely isn’t a good thing.

There definitely shouldn’t be a security camera pointed right at the PIN pad—if there is, that’s a solid sign something is amiss.

Getty Images | Dan Kitwood

And even if you can’t see one, buttonhole cameras are easy to buy and not especially expensive nowadays. Always cover the PIN pad with your hand as you type in your password, just in case.

Pumps far away from the store

The further away the pump is, the easier it is to attach a skimmer or a camera somewhere. Choose a pump close to the store or one that has a clear view of the cashier.

Getty Images | Spencer Platt

Remember that a well-maintained gas station should also include frequent pump servicing, meaning it’s easier to notice if anything is wrong with the credit card slot.

RELATED: 8 rules to live by to avoid getting scammed

Keep an eye on your statement

Even if you’ve been vigilant every time you fill up, keep a close eye on your credit card statement for any weird charges.

If your card information has been stolen, that’ll be the first sign.

Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

And above all, remember this: when in doubt, just use cash.


About the Author

Jessica Suss

An aspiring food and health writer, native Chicagoan, and nut butter enthusiast. Jessica is also the creator of BiteMeBlog, but don't call her a foodie More.

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