Police Find Skimming Devices Inside Pumps at 180 Gas Stations in Utah
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
This is news regardless of where you live. Why? The use of skimming devices by identity criminals is not limited to Utah. ABC 4 television news reported:
"Utah police investigators said crooks have installed electronic "skimming" devices at 180 gas stations from Salt Lake to Provo in an attempt to steal bank card and pin numbers... The skimming device is actually located inside the gas pump... The “Skimmer” copied card and pin numbers giving the criminals free access to the victim’s bank accounts... Crooks used the stolen card information captured by the device to steal more than $11,000 using ATM machines in Los Angeles... Investigators don't know how many card numbers the crooks stole... The only way that you're going to know if you've fallen victim to this is if your credit card starts being used or if your debit card number starts being used..."
If thieves drain your checking account balance to zero, you'll know that way too. By then the damage has been done, and your bank may not reimburse you for the stolen money.
Because it is impossible to spot a gas station pump that has been tampered with, I never pay at the pump. Instead, I go inside to the cashier and pay with credit or cash. And I keep my credit card within eyesight. I use my debit card only at my bank's ATM machines.
I had read a while back that if you use the credit card feature instead of the pin number, thieves could not capture this information. Am I wrong about this?
Posted by: Janice | Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 08:47 AM
Thanks for submitting a comment and a good question.
Yes, if you use your debit card as a credit card (e.g., Signature Debit), then you don't have to enter your PIN but it still withdraws money directly from your checking account.
Not all debit cards have this capability. So while yours might, other people's cards may not. And, at a gas pump that has been compromised with a skimming device, this payment method still exposes your debit card number. Why risk that?
I prefer to protect my checking account number and information like the "gold" it is. Only a very select few get access. When you use your debit card everywhere, you are betting that retail has taken all precautions to keep your payment information secure. Not all retailers are so diligent with data security. So, not all retailers have earned my trust... especially gas stations that leave their gas pumps unattended, unsecured, and unprotected for long periods (e.g., when the store is closed).
Your power as a consumer is to shop elsewhere when you suspect that a retailers has not taken adequate data security precautions, or shop at that retailer with a different payment method (e.g., cash). As retailers learn this, they will improve their security or suffer the consequences.
Posted by: George | Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 10:02 AM
A reader asked me via e-mail: "How do these skimming devices affect your credit card? Luckily my credit card has fraud protection that actually has worked."
Fraud protection is great for credit cards, but I still wouldn't use a credit card at a gas pump that has been compromised. Why? The credit card replacment hassle.
If you use your credit card at a gas pump that has been compromised, the thieves now know your credit card information, can clone it, and then make purchases with the cloned card as if they'd stolen the credit card from your wallet/pursue. Than, you have to go through the hassle of notifying your bank and getting a replacement credit card; plus changing all of your online payment settings to use the replacement credit card account.
Who wants to go through all of that?
Posted by: George | Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 10:10 AM
Thanks so much for the most informative answer George. I guess the way to go for me will be cash when I can.
Posted by: Janice | Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 10:15 AM
Wow.. sounds like an inside job to me! I'd start by investigating the company that maintains those gas pumps. Thieves suck!
Posted by: Shelly Gainer | Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 03:13 PM
No matters if you drive your company's car, a trucker or just working in a gas station - be alerted for scams like those, it can harms a lot of good people...
Posted by: Anonymous | Wednesday, September 01, 2010 at 12:59 PM