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Tips to avoid card skimmers at gas stations

By J.R. TIDWELL / Editor

Skimmers on card readers at gas station pumps seem to be becoming more commonplace.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, “skimmers are illegal card readers attached to payment terminals.  These card readers grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without your knowledge. Criminals sell the stolen data or use it to buy things online. You won’t know your information has been stolen until you get your statement or an overdraft notice.”

Clanton Police Department recently found five skimmers on various pumps at Love’s Travel Stop at Exit 208. These skimmers were all inside the pump and could not be spotted without opening the compartment.

Skimmers can be difficult to spot, and any exterior card reader could be affected.

The FTC lists the following tips to help consumers avoid falling pray to someone using a skimmer device.

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?

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 are really concerned about skimmers, pay inside rather than at the pump.

Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges.

If your credit card has been compromised, report it to your bank or card issuer. Federal law limits your liability if your credit, ATM, or debit card is lost or stolen, but your liability may depend on how quickly you report the loss or theft.