If you’re not careful at the gas pump, your bank account could literallyget drained by crooks! According to MSNBC, more and more thieves are using gas pumps to steal peoples’ account information, and debit cards are an especially big problem. Why? According to Detective Jason Visnaw with the Washington State Police, when a crook steals a credit card, he has to go and buy merchandise – and then sell it. With a debit card, the crook can get cash. So, stealing debit card information can be a lot more appealing to theives!
So, how do they steal your information at the pump? Here’s how it usually works: They install a hard-to-spot card reader – called a “skimmer” – on top of the card reader built into the pump. Then, when you use your card to buy gas, the skimmer is able to grab the account information from the card. Then, the thief removes the sleeve, copies the information onto blank cards, and runs to the nearest ATM to access the accounts. Crooks can also get your PIN number by hiding a little camera in the skimmer or on the pump. Which’ll show your fingers as you type in the number. There are also fake keypads - that slip over the REAL keypad - that can transmit the PIN code as you enter it. In Las Vegas, police have discovered even MORE sophisticated technology – wireless transmitters installed inside the pump! That means crooks can actually sit in the parking lot with a laptop and get real-time information as victims use their card! So how can you protect yourself?
- DON’T use your debit card at the gas pump! Debit cards don’t offer the same fraud protection as credit cards. Credit cards have a $50 limit on fraudulent charges. Meaning, if your card is stolen or copied, that’s the most money you’re responsible for. Your account is usually credited while they investigate the loss. With a debit card, your bank can take weeks to decide if you were really victimized before they refund your money and you may not get all of it back! If you have to use your debit card, go to the counter inside the gas station.
- Or, like we always say, pay with CASH. Crooks can’t steal your information if you don’t use a card in the first place.