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Credit Card Skimmers Siphon Card Numbers at Gas Pumps

Credit Skimming

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to worry about things like credit card skimmers, cybercriminals, scammers and other thieves trying to separate us from our money,and steal money and personal information however they can.

But we don’t live in a perfect world. And if we don’t keep that top of mind daily, crooks will find a way to steal our money, our credit information or our identity. It happens to innocent victims thousands of times a day, and not always from our home computers.

Case in point:

If you use your credit or debit card at a gas pump, it’s possible that one day you’ll get a surprise. Why? Because your card’s details could be stolen, captured and sold on the internet. Not by the gas company or the friendly person working inside. But by criminals who put credit card skimmers (or shimmers) right at the gas pump’s card reader. (It can happen at other places too, but gas pumps are a prime and easy target.)

It’s the reality of our times: Criminals are online, on our streets and in our lives. We must get better at knowing their tricks, being alert and staying a step ahead wherever and whenever we can. On the Easy Prey podcast we have an episode that covers the topic.

A Credit Card Skimmer Could Be Targeting You. Question everything. Take your time.

A credit card skimmer is a data thief and a part of the identity theft problem They want easy targets and victims. They want your personal information.

It’s important that we do the simple things, like create complicated passwords and use two-factor authentication—but sometimes we have to take a step back and realize we need to be our own watchdogs: We can’t expect that our digital tools are going to protect us from everything.

That’s the message from Scott Schober, CEO of Berkeley Varitronics Systems and author of the book “Cybersecurity is Everybody’s Business.”  It’s also the advice he shares when he talks at seminars.

“I want my readers or my audience to connect with me from hearing about the mistakes that I made,” Scott says. “I hope they start saying to themselves, ‘Maybe I do need to make more secure passwords or not use the same passwords on different sites.’ Because the fact is, we are all are making mistakes and we could all be doing better.”

Cyber-savvy cybercriminals.

Many cybercriminals these days aren’t stealing our credit card data for themselves; they’re putting together big databases that they put on the “dark web” for sale to others. And they’re using all the latest technology to stay anonymous, launch ransomware, and collect bitcoin payments.

They’re not small-time crooks any more. Even with the gas pump scam, the bad guys have upped their game. 

Pumping out stolen credit card info.

“Most of the new threats at gas stations or other card readers are Bluetooth® skimmers,” Schober says. “These days, a criminal can install an inexpensive Bluetooth skimmer in a matter of minutes when no one’s looking. Then they come back later and hang around nearby with their laptop. They can download details about the credit cards used for up to 200 cards a day.”

The gas pump scammers can steal $100k off those stolen accounts before someone notices the skimmer device.

Precaution at the Pump.

Here are some tips for avoiding skimmers and fraud at gas station pumps.

  • Avoid using your debit card at the pump. Credit cards are safer. However, if the pump screen says, “Is this a debit card?” answer “NO.” You will be able to use the card without entering your PIN. If you enter a PIN, shield your hand so no cameras will catch your entry. 
  • Never trust a broken security seal. Gas stations will put a security seal (like mini crime tape) across the credit card reader. If the seal/tape is broken or torn, the reader has been tampered with. Don’t use it and report it.
  • Examine and jiggle the reader. Make sure the reader on your pump looks exactly like the others at the station. Tug on it so you feel that it’s on firmly and truly part of the pump.
  • Skip the reader and pay inside. Pay in cash and skip the card reader altogether. Or go inside and use a credit card.

Don’t lose hope. You can fight back. 

You can’t afford to let your guard down for a second. And while that might seem like a hassle and a nuisance, it will pay off in the long run: A healthy amount of skepticism, distrust and questioning everything can go a long way.

Although the dangers are real, the situation isn’t hopeless. The more you learn about schemes and scams that are online and in the real world, the more equipped you are to stay out of harm’s way.

As Scott Schober has advised, take your time with all things and question everything…not just everything that looks suspicious. Even if you get a text or email from your spouse or best friend, check that it’s from them, especially if they’re asking something of you.

Listen to the Easy Prey podcast.

For more insights into scams, fraud and how to stay safe, follow the Easy Prey podcast, hosted by Chris Parker, the CEO of WhatIsMyIPAddress.com.

You can find all episodes here. Or find it on your favorite medium platform.

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