Card skimmers provide yet another example of ways thieves get at your information even if it seems like you’re taking all available precautions. Skimmers are devices placed on gas pumps, ATM machines, or hand carried. Their sole purpose is to capture your credit card information as you make a legitimate transaction. They’re most common at the gas pump because they’re so difficult to detect; consumers could find it difficult or impossible to locate one. However, there are still ways to avoid having your financial information stolen at the pump.
Limit the Information
When you run a debit card, you give your pin number out to thieves. When you run the card as credit you deny them that vital piece of information. For maximum safety, just use cash to pay for your gas instead of your credit or debit card: cash remains anonymous. It may cost you an extra few minutes at the gas station, but you’ll spend even more time straightening out your accounts if someone manages to steal your information.
Report Suspicious Devices
While many skimmers are professionally placed—they are generally operated by organized crime rings—it is possible that you might spot devices that don’t seem to belong there attached to the pump or sitting near the pump. If you spot something that gives you pause, pay in cash and report the device. Pump inspectors are now looking for skimmers, but they can’t catch everything.
Keep Monitoring Your Statements
Keep monitoring your bank statements and checking your credit scores. This monitoring is extremely important. Criminals will often make very small “test” transactions just to see if you’re paying any attention. If you can catch those and report a stolen card as a result you can stop any further damage from being done. You will also have better luck getting the charges reversed.
If you do end up the victim of a card skimming or any other ID theft scam it’s vitally important that you report the incident to your banks, the police, and the credit bureaus immediately. The longer you wait the less liability protection you get. In fact, at many banks, 60 days is your deadline—after that you will be fully responsible for any and all fraudulent charges that you may have incurred.