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If you own or operate gas stations, chances are you know about skimmers – illegal card readers attached to payment terminals, like gas pumps, that grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without the customer’s knowledge. Criminals sell the stolen data or use it to buy things online. If your pumps are compromised, customers won’t know their information has been stolen until they get an account statement or overdraft notice.

Customers aren’t only victims here. Your business can suffer from the associated costs, including a damaged reputation and lost sales.

These best practices can help your customers and your business keep safe from skimmers.

  • Make pump inspection part of the daily routine for employees.
  • Use and track pump security seals. These large labels are adhered to the pump, near the credit card reader. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read "void," which means the machine has been tampered with.
  • Log the serial numbers on the seals. Thieves can use counterfeit security stickers, so make sure serial numbers on the seals match your station's master list.
  • Look for warped or protruding surfaces. For example, card readers and PIN pads not flush with the pump’s door panel are a warning sign.
  • Be suspicious of people who claim to be technicians performing unscheduled work. Check IDs and confirm scheduled work appointments. Check on vehicles parked at the pumps for a long time.
  • Shut down and bag suspect pumps, and have the machine checked for skimmers.

For more information, read the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) skimming resource guide. To help protect yourself when you’re filling up, check out these FTC tips for consumers.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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Janet Hughes
June 22, 2017
For the consumer, isn't it wiser to go inside the store to use their card rather than use the island machine?
June 28, 2017

In reply to by Janet Hughes

Not necessarily. The employee could be the one that added a skimmer inside. Most theft is internal. Use cash - you may even get a discount.
June 28, 2017

In reply to by Janet Hughes

This is the policy that I have personally adopted as a consumer.
R Morahan
June 28, 2017
The primary way to stop skimming is to replace the generic lock with a high pick-resistant security lock whose keycode is exclusive to that outlet. Stickers can be counterfeited, and, like the sample above, don't always have bar codes. Moreover, they are usually "checked" by minimum wage poorly trained personnel. Take the simple direct approach. Keep the skimmers out on the first place. For more information, google "gas dispenser locks" and review your options. See my article in "Oil and Energy," Nov. 2013.
R Morahan
June 28, 2017
There is a simple fool-proof solution: Replace the easily picked "universal" key with a high security pick resistant lock with a key code exclusive to that location. Stickers are easily counterfeited, and in day-to-day practical terms seldom maintained properly. They also announce "You've been skimmed." They don't prevent the actual intrusion. The "Best Practice" is to install the right locks, and they are not hard to find. See Oil and Energy magazine, November 2013 online for more information.
John Mitchell …
July 05, 2017
The sticker does nothing to prevent skimming. From 10+ years of fighting skimmers, Mr. Moran is correct. Stickers will not stop a "thief" at your home, only a secure, one of a kind, lock can start to prevent skimmers. Even if the employee checks each shift, that would be a minimum of 6-8 hours a dispenser was gathering consumer card info. The second form of security is offered by some dispenser manufacturers. Electronic security, plus a physical one of a kind lock will keep criminals out. The dispenser goes offline, which the clerk should notice on the POS.
Kevin Allhands
September 23, 2017
My bank debit card number got stolen somehow and several fraudulent transactions were attempted amounting to hundreds of dollars. Many thanks to my bank for alerting me so quickly. I learned a valuable lesson today upon researching card skimming. I will never again let my card leave my sight, keep cash just in case, and trust no one.

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