Consumer protection officials are warning consumers about a new form of high-tech theft that can affect all credit and debt card users. Scammers are using devices known as ‘skimmers’ at gas pumps to steal account information from debit and credit cards that are swiped. These devices are also commonly found at ATMs.
According to Mississippi state Attorney General, Jim Hood, the devices are difficult to detect and come in two forms: internal or external. The external devices fit over the actual card readers at the pumps. The internal devices are typically communication cables connected to a device that records data from the cards.
“These devices may go undetected for weeks, all the while gathering sensitive account information from unsuspecting consumers,” Hood said. “Consumers need to call their financial institutions immediately if they see any unauthorized activity on their accounts, and watch closely for signs of tampering when using gas pumps or ATMs.”
Authorities offer the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of card skimming:
- Pick pumps close to the entrance of the gas station or convenience store. Skimmers usually target pumps that are not near the entrance.
- Pay with cash.
- If you’re using a debit card, choose the option to process the payment as credit so scammers do not have access to your PIN.
- Lightly wiggle the card reader on the pump. External skimmers might feel loose and come off.
- Ask gas stations and convenience stores what type of anti-skimming measures they have adopted.
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, more than 250 skimmers were confiscated from gas pumps between July 2015 and July 2016. Approximately 100 consumers’ card numbers were stolen from each device and $1,000 stolen from each consumer.
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