Gas pump skimmer scam alive and well in the Bay Area

By Mark Prado
Mark Prado

The problem of crooks using skimming devices at gas pumps to collect financial data has not gone away and has become such an issue that the Federal Trade Commission has an internet web page dedicated to the topic.   

The bad guys are becoming more sophisticated: After placing a device in a gas pump, information from debit and credit cards can be retrieved with Bluetooth technology.

The most recent case reported in the Bay Area occurred late last month in Sunnyvale

The FTC says there ways to guard against the crime:  

  • Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read "void."
  • Look at the card reader itself. Does it look different than other readers at the station? For example, the card reader on the left has a skimmer attached; the reader on the right doesn’t.
  • Try to wiggle the card reader before you put in your card. If it moves, report it to the attendant. Then use a different pump.
  • If you use a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of entering a PIN. That way, the PIN is safe and the money isn’t deducted immediately from your account.
  • If you’re really concerned about skimmers, pay inside rather than at the pump.
  • Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges.


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