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Protecting Yourself when Paying at the Pump

identity theft

Adding to a recent article "13 Top Tips To Beat Identity Theft", one of the fastest growning places where identity theft takes place is at the gas pumps. "Gas pump skimming" as its known is affecting more and more gas stations across the USA. One particular recent target for these skimmers is the gas pump.  Just this summer victims all over the world have reported thousands of dollars stolen from their accounts, and the crime path leads to the gas station.

In Cheltenham and Churchdown, U.K., and in Pennsylvania and Delaware, U.S., skimming devices have been found attached to gas pumps at several stations in the areas.  With the price of gas as high as it is today, no one can afford to both fill up and get skimmed.  And, according to the 2007 NACS Consumer Fuels Report, higher gasoline prices have driven more consumers to pay at the pump with plastic.  The report, based on a U.S. nationwide consumer survey, found that 65 percent of consumers today buy their fuel with credit or debit cards.

It is also estimated that there are more than 900,000 fuel dispensers in the U.S. and Canada that are not PCI compliant, and therefore secure from credit card skimming at the gas pumps.

Jeff Wakefield is an industry expert on secure electronic payment systems for VeriFone.  He was recently one of the speakers at the 2008 National Association of Convenience Stores’ Technology Show.  There he spoke to the importance of protecting customers from credit card fraud, and his area of expertise is convenience stores and gas stations. He has 27 years of retail systems experience and has served as a member of multiple industry groups including the Electronic Funds Transfer Association, the Electronic Benefits Transfer Council, the Food Distribution Retail Service Group and the New England Partners project.

Three top tips on preventing credit card skimming at the gas pumps:

  1. Inspect a gas pump before inserting your card into the reader. Look for anything suspect, such as missing pieces, loose hardware, tape, additional card readers or cameras. If you see any of this, go inside to pay and alert gas station staff.
  2. Keep your PIN secure at all times. When entering it at the gas pump, make sure that no one can see the numbers you are entering and be aware that there are no cameras pointing toward the PIN-pad.
  3. Check your bank statements regularly. If you see anything suspect, report it immediately to authorities.
  4. Look out for secure technology emerging in the market. Convenience store and gas station owners are realizing the importance of offering their customers security in their payment transactions, and more and more payment technology companies are creating technology to meet that demand. (VeriFone is currently launching its Secure PumpPAY solution at gas stations across the country.) Look out for systems like these, and ask your local station when their pumps will be Payment Card Industry-approved as well. In 2010, it will be mandatory, but many convenience stores are getting ahead of the game and offering this now.