This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

Unhappy driver
Photo by DimaBerlin / Shutterstock.com

A surging number of American drivers believe they’ve been victimized by skimming when they swipe their credit card at the gas pump.

A CompareCards survey found that 31% of drivers who recently bought gas believe they have been a victim of such skimming at some point during the past year. That marks a major jump from 23% in 2019 and 15% in 2018.

Skimming takes place when a scammer attaches a tiny device to a payment terminal, such as those found at gas pumps. If you swipe your card in these terminals, the crook can steal your account information from the magnetic stripe on the back of the card.

Of course, chip cards were supposed to prevent this sort of fraud. But according to CompareCards, gas stations were exempted from a 2015 deadline to make the switch to chip terminals. The extra time was granted to gas stations because of the difficulty of making the changeover, which often involves replacement of the entire pump.

According to CompareCards:

“The original deadline for gas stations to make these improvements was October 2017, before getting pushed back to October 2020. However, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, it was pushed back again earlier this year and is now April 2021. It’s possible that the deadline could move again depending on the state of the pandemic next spring.”

CompareCards reports that fears of card skimming are forcing drivers to modify their behavior when paying for gas, with 44% of survey respondents saying they have made such changes.

For example, 23% of respondents now use their credit card more often at the pump because credit cards offer stronger fraud liability protections than debit cards. Three groups — members of Generation X, men and wealthier Americans — most often report making such changes.

If you are worried about falling victim to a skimming scam, CompareCards offers the following tips for staying safe:

  • Use credit cards instead of debit cards, since credit cards offer superior financial protection. For more on this, check out “9 Things You Should Never Pay For With a Debit Card.”
  • Fill up at well-lit pumps close to the store, as these are less likely to be targets of fraudsters.
  • Keep an eye on your online card statements and look for any potentially fraudulent charges.

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