Credit card “skimmers”—illegal and malicious credit card tracking devices implanted in credit card swiping terminals used to steal your personal information—are a form of identity fraud that is spreading at an alarming rate. Like other forms of identity theft, skimmers read and retain one’s personal information and then the criminals responsible for the skimmers utilize that information to make fraudulent purchases at the card owner’s expense. If not detected, each skimming device has the potential of accruing up to $1 million in fraudulent charges, a staggering statistic to say the least. So, with all this doom and gloom, what are drivers to do in order to avoid falling victim to credit card skimming fraud? Resort to making all fuel purchases inside the service station and solely with cash? Only patronize full-service stations where your fuel is pumped by on-site attendants? Or, by far the absolute worst, stop driving altogether and resort to bicycling? Although bicycling is an excellent source of exercise as well as a great hobby, fortunately none of these aforementioned measures are absolutely necessary to avoid falling victim to credit card skimming fraud. All that to be said, a good bit of due diligence will certainly help to ensure you are best protected. The following public service information is courtesy of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In 2018 alone, Florida experienced the highest fraud rate per capita in the entire nation, with $84 million lost to fraud which works out to approximately $400 per person. Obviously, Florida has some major problems. As the Sunshine State works to lower these glaring statistics, they have offered the following recommendations to help turn the tide on the skimming epidemic: • Take a close look at the pump: Avoid using pumps that are open or unlocked, have had the tamper-evident security tape cut or removed, or otherwise appear unusual. Some newer pumps may also have encrypted credit card readers – look for an illuminated green lock symbol near the credit card reader to validate this is properly functioning.
• Use a credit card – not a debit card: If a credit card number is skimmed, you’re protected by the card issuer’s zero-liability policy – but a stolen debit card number could be far more damaging. If you must use a debit card, choose to use it as credit, instead of selecting debit and entering your PIN. •Pay inside, with cash or credit, instead of at the pump: It takes just seconds for criminals to place a skimmer in a gas pump – but it’s far less likely that a fraudster placed a skimmer on the payment terminal in front of the clerk inside the gas station or convenience store. •Choose gas pumps closest to a physical building: Don’t use gas pumps out of the attendant’s line of sight, such as those around a corner or behind a building. •Check your card statements and sign up for fraud alerts: Nearly every credit card issuer offers fraud alerts, and many will email or text you when your card is used at a gas station. Check your credit card and debit card transactions frequently to make sure no fraudulent activity has occurred. Let it be known that precisely adhering to these recommendations still does not guarantee one will avoid all skimming fraud. It does, however, significantly help to lower one’s risk of falling victim to this fraud. It bears repeating: Fuel pump credit card skimmers are definitely on the rise. So, please put your best foot forward to avoid becoming another statistic. After all, no one wants skimming to happen to them.