Card skimming at ATMs and gas pumps is on the rise and getting more sophisticated. Do you know what to look for? Card “skimming” is using a device to steal debit information. Read more below from the Federal Trade Commission.
Avoid skimmers at the pump — Skimmers are illegal card readers attached to payment terminals — like gas pumps — that grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without your knowledge. Criminals sell the stolen data or use it to buy things online. You won’t know your information has been stolen until you get your statement or an overdraft notice.
Skimmers are nothing new, but technology has made them smaller and harder to find. Sometimes, they’re even hidden inside a gas pump.
Here are tips to help you avoid a skimmer when you gas up:
- Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel. This is part of a voluntary program by the industry to thwart gas pump tampering. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read "void," which means the machine has been tampered with. Take a good look at the card reader itself. Does it look different than other readers at the station? For example, the card reader on the left has a skimmer attached; the reader on the right doesn’t.
- You can try to wiggle the card reader before you put in your card. If it moves, report it to the attendant. Then use a different pump.
- If you use a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of entering a PIN. That way, the PIN is safe and the money isn’t deducted immediately from your account. If that’s not an option, cover your hand when entering your PIN. Scammers sometimes use tiny pinhole cameras, situated above the keypad area, to record PIN entries.
- Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges.
If you're really concerned about skimmers, you can pay inside rather than at the pump. Another option is to use a gas pump near the front of the store. Thieves may target gas pumps that are harder for the attendant to see.
Credit: June 22, 2017, Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
Other Common Scams
"By learning the eight basic scam types, you will be able to spot any scam - no matter what new spin it's given by clever con artists," reports Bankrate.com. According to a Bankrate.com report, the following are the eight most common scams of which consumers should be aware:
- Products That are Too Good to be True
"If it seems too good to be true, it probably is," the report reminds consumers. "Remember that a con artist makes a career of using excuses and explanations to lead you away from your common sense. When dealing with your money and personal information, never allow yourself to be rushed, threatened or persuaded against your judgment." Consumers are warned that offers that are "too good to be true" do not just involve Internet or telemarketer scams. They may also be found in mail offers, magazine ads and brick and mortar stores. "Stay vigilant and trust your gut."
- Identity Theft
Although identity theft is not new, cases of identity theft are rising. The thieves need only a few elements to victimize you - usually, your name and Social Security number will do. Scammers obtaining this information are often involved with other crimes such as advance fee scams and fraudulent job offers. The name for this scam is "phishing"...Almost any scam can be sprinkled with a smattering of identity theft - advance fee scams, fraud jobs and online auctions included. All it takes to become a victim of identity theft is a leak of your personal information.
- Bogus Charity
When giving to a charity, be sure to check out the charity first. "Never give payment information to anyone calling or e-mailing you, claiming to be with a charity," the report recommends. "Ask them to send you paperwork on their organization. Then research the organization online and with the Better Business Bureau to make sure it's legitimate - and that you've got the right contact information."
- Money-Making Schemes
"When people are down on their luck, they may turn to get-rich-quick or money-making schemes. Somehow the scammers make old scams, such as the Nigerian scam and pyramid schemes, seem like plausible ways for you to make a lot of cash in a hurry. If it's an easy way to make money, it's probably illegal, a scam or just a really bad idea."
- Fraud Jobs
According to Bankrate.com, there are several types of employment scams. "The most notorious tricks include being recruited for an illegal job; identity theft through job applications, and bogus employment fees." In addition, the information you provide in your job application may cause you to become a victim of identity theft. The scammer may then use your personal financial information to apply for credit cards to buy more merchandise. "While hunting for a job, you may encounter someone who promises you a job, but only if you will pay a fee for processing, administration or uniforms. Steer clear of these people even if they promise you a money-back guarantee."
- Online Auctions
"There are several things to be careful of when bargain-shopping online. If you find an item priced far too low, it may be a scam - a fake item, a stolen item, an item in really bad condition or something you will pay for and never receive." This is particularly important to remember in online auctions, where pressure often surrounds bidding wars. "Never agree to pay by cash or money order - these methods of payment are untraceable and offer you no protection. You may also want to be wary of escrow companies because they are easily faked."
- The prize that will cost you.
"It should go without saying that if you get an e-mail saying you won something - and you didn't enter - you should just delete it. This is a common scam," the report states. Often, consumers receive an e-mail indicating that they've won something but in order to receive the winnings or the prize, they must pay the taxes or handling fee first. "If you didn't enter anything, you didn't win anything. And even if you did enter, taxes go to the government, not to the organization running the contest. " Also, do not give out personal information such as your Social Security number or account number to anyone to claim a prize.
- Advance Fee Scams
Consumers pay a fee in advance for receiving a credit card, loan or scholarship and receive nothing valuable in return. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recognized several fake loan ads. The ads appear to be real and even use the logos of real financial institutions. "But the phone number in the ad will lead you to an imposter on a cell phone who asks for your personal information, tells you where to wire money for a fee, then disappears - stealing your cash and identity."