At-the-pump payment terminals are one of the most common places where people have their banking and credit card information stolen.
Card skimming is one of the most common financial scams around. The way it works isn't all that complicated either. An illegal card reader is attached to a payment terminal and when you run your card through it, the reader snatches your information without you ever knowing. And while these card skimming devices could be located just about anywhere, they are commonly installed on gas pumps.
That's right, every time you pay at the pump, you are potentially compromising your card's security. In fact, the National Association for Convenience Stores says a single pump with a card skimming device installed on it can steal the information of anywhere from 30 to 100 cards a day in the US.
Luckily, there are a few easy ways that you can help protect yourself form these sorts of schemes. The first thing you should do, according to security experts Krebs on Security, is just pass on paying at the pump entirely and take your business indoors. The second thing is that you should avoid using your debit card when you can.
"Some pump skimming devices are capable of stealing debit card PINs as well, so it's a good idea to avoid paying with a debit card at the pump," writes Krebs. "Armed with your PIN and debit card data, thieves can clone the card and pull money out of your account at an ATM."
Paying with credit is typically a better option. That's because when you use a credit card you're not actually spending your own money and you're more than likely protected from fraud by your provider's insurance policies. In some cases your credit card provider will even block fraudsters from using your card before you even discover that it has been compromised.
However, if a skimmer gets a hold of your debit card's information, it's a whole other story. Recovering money from a stolen debit card can take a long time, meaning you could be stuck with a drained bank account for much longer than you'd like.
Another thing you can do is use one of those fancy digital wallet apps. Services like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Android Pay don't actually share your card information with the gas station at all, meaning they are pretty secure. These kinds of payment options have also started to pop up more and more on pay-at-the pump terminals as well.
Additionally, Krebs says, you might want to avoid gas stations that discount purchases made on debit cards.
"It may not be the best idea to frequent a particular filling station simply because it offers the lowest prices: Doing so could leave you with hidden costs down the road."
Looks like we'll just have to add gasoline along with marijuana to the list of things you should really just be paying for in cash.