Often, times of crisis and tragedy usher in con-artists and crooks interested in cashing in on others’ misfortune. Now, more than ever, trips to the gas station can be painful. The prices continue to rise and there is little any average consumer can do to stop it. As gas prices reach disastrous new highs, many of us are thinking, could this get worse? Enter the skim scam.
While skim scam may be fun to say, the results can be devastating to hoaxed consumers. So just what is skimming? Using advanced equipment, most often purchased from outside the country, con-artists capture magnetic strip data as you swipe your debit card and keypad information as you type in your PIN number. This can happen anywhere: at ATMs, grocery stores, restaurants and venders of all kinds. However, one of the more popular locations for the scam to take place is at gas stations.
With the ever-growing popularity of debit card use (experts estimate that over 65% of purchases will be made with debit cards by 2013, according to a Nilson Report), gas stations provide the perfect venue for skimmers to harvest your private information. Most people use plastic over cash at the gas station for convenience sake. They often don’t think twice about punching in their PIN number because the closest person is usually over ten feet away, and scammers count on this confidence.
What can you do to battle against this con? The BBB has compiled a few tips to help you stop the scammers from skimming your savings:
· Keep tabs on your bank account. Experts say it until they’re blue in the face, but there is no better firewall against scammers than the somewhat mundane task of a daily bank account check. The more you check your account, the easier it will be to identify if something unusual is taking place.
· Only use ATMs at your bank. While this may be more difficult for credit union users, do your best to use only ATMs attached to your bank. Skimming scams are more likely to take place at conveniences stores and secluded ATMs where there is less foot-traffic and surveillance footage.
· Don’t type in your PIN. If you use your debit card at the gas station, run it as a credit card or simply use a credit card for all gas station transactions. Without your PIN number, direct access to your bank account is impossible, and by using your debit card as a credit card you will have the advantage of greater protection should a fraud occur. **However, consumer should be aware that often times there are discounts for cash users, meaning that credit card use at the gas station can be more expensive that cash or debit card use. A good way to get around this issue is to buy gas cards which you can purchase with your credit card, but you don’t have to pay an extra fee.
For more information on the latest scams, visit the BBB website or call 858.496.2131.