When’s the last time you paid cash for your gas? I honestly can’t even remember the year in which I did that. With credit cards and debit cards, it’s much too easy to swipe and pump. Nothing to worry about, right?
Wrong! Credit card skimming attacks are on the rise, with FICO noting that “ATM compromises in the US rose 546% from 2014 to 2015.” A 546% increase–triple digits!
What should you look for to avoid card skimming? How can you protect yourself as a consumer and how do you protect pumps as a c-store owner?
What is Credit Card Skimming?
PC Mag describes a skimming system as such:
The typical ATM skimmer is a device smaller than a deck of cards that fits over the existing card reader. Most of the time, the attackers will also place a hidden camera somewhere in the vicinity with a view of the number pad in order to record personal-identification-numbers, or PINs. The camera may be in the card reader, mounted at the top of the ATM, or even just to the side inside a plastic case holding brochures. Some criminals may install a fake PIN pad over the actual keyboard to capture the PIN directly, bypassing the need for a camera.
Credit card skimmers are everywhere and come in multiple shapes, sizes and colors. CSNews spoke with Kara Gunderson, the POS manager for CITCO, and she points out that they are so easily acquired that “you can even find them for sale on eBay.”
What to Do as a Consumer
Look at it and compare it to nearby devices. If it looks suspicious, says GasBuddy.com, it probably is and you should walk away. Not all c-stores have tamper-proof stickers, but if they do, check to make sure they are not cut, re-stuck or missing completely. Compare the machine you are using with the one next to you. Do they look different? If so, it is a good idea to walk away.
Does it move? GasBuddy.com also suggests taking a couple seconds before swiping your card to touch the keypad and card reader to make sure these components are secured properly. Nothing should wiggle or jiggle. If something moves, alert the operator inside the store–and don’t use that card reader.
Be aware! It’s so easy to swipe your card over and over again without keeping a watchful eye on your account. Always keep your receipts and compare them with what is shown on your bank statement. Reconciling your account is always important, but even more important to avoid fraud.
Credit over debit. Jason Glassberg, co-founder of a cybersecurity professional services firm, reports to BankRate.com that it’s “generally safer to use a credit card versus a debit card, because it’s easier to stop payment or cancel a payment than it is when money’s already taken out of the account.” Select credit over debit to avoid using your pin number at the pump. Entering your zip code to confirm the credit card is a much safer option than entering your pin number. If you must enter your pin number, use your other hand to cover which numbers you are entering.
What You Can Do as an Owner/Operator
Watch for suspicious activity. Be aware of all corners of your convenience store; from inside ATMs to the farthest pump outside (which is the one most likely to be tampered with).
Check for tampering. Add a daily pump walk to the employee task list. Teach employees what to look for. If your c-store has tamper-proof seal stickers, confirm it is not cut, re-stuck or missing completely.
Educate your customers. Show consumers that you are aware of skimming and doing everything you can to help make sure it does not happen to them. Insert pictures of what your machines should look like and what to do it something looks suspicious to them.
Security. The senior product manager to Wayne Fueling Systems tells CSNEWs that operators should consider the following to help reduce skimming and fraud: install dispenser alarms, install or increase video surveillance, improve lighting, and keep an eye on extended stay vehicles.
Check out NACS Online for additional owner resources; and CSNews.com offers a great article on 9 things a convenience store owner should do if skimming happens.
What Else You Should Know
Credit card skimming is not only happening ATMs and gas pumps. It can happen during normal retail transactions or when the card leaves your sight for a second at restaurants of if you misplace your purse or wallet. Always be aware of your surroundings, use your best judgment and alert the necessary personnel if you ever feel uncomfortable in a credit card situation.