Never Fill Up at These Gas Station Pumps, FBI Warns
Doing so puts you at higher risk of being targeted by criminals.
From commuting to the office to picking the kids up from school, millions of people in the U.S. get behind the wheel of their car multiple times a day. Of course, driving this much is going to require regular trips to the gas station. But whether you're getting gas weekly or even just once a month, every time is an opportunity for scammers to strike. With that in mind, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is now alerting Americans on how to keep themselves—and their wallets—safe when getting gas. Read on to find out which gas station pumps the FBI warns you should never use.
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Thieves are targeting people at gas stations more often these days.
Getting gas is a necessity for most Americans, which unfortunately makes gas stations a lucrative target for thieves. According to the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), there has been an increase in reports about thefts occurring at gas stations across the country. The organization says that this type of "unique setting" allows thieves to hit multiple victims.
"Most of the time, gas station customers leave their car doors unlocked and items like purses and wallets are often left in plain view," the NCPC explains. "A thief is able to drive up next to the victim's car, open an unlocked door, and grab any valuables within reach. Then, the thief quickly drives off. It happens in a matter of seconds."
But as it turns out, criminals don't even have to be present to rob you at the gas station. That's why the FBI is now warning about another threat to be aware of.
The FBI says a particular theft tactic is often used here.
Criminals engaging in "skimming" frequently target victims at gas stations, according to the FBI. "Skimming occurs when devices illegally installed on ATMs, point-of-sale (POS) terminals, or fuel pumps capture data or record cardholders' PINs," the agency explains. "Criminals use the data to create fake debit or credit cards and then steal from victims' accounts."
These skimmers can be placed on card readers practically anywhere, but gas stations are popular venues. In July, the FBI reported that two men from the Miami area had just been sentenced in connection with a nationwide gas station skimming scheme. Both admitted to conspiring with others to "commit access device fraud by building skimming devices designed to steal gas station customer information, installing those devices inside gas pumps" in several New York counties and elsewhere, according to the Department of Justice.
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You should avoid using certain pumps at the gas station.
Skimmers illegally installed at fuel pumps are not normally noticeable, according to the FBI. The devices are "usually attached in the internal wiring of the machine and aren't visible to the customer," the agency warns. And the data is stored in a way that it can be downloaded or wirelessly transferred later—all without anyone seeing any clear signs of theft occurring.
While you can't see if fuel pumps have skimmers attached, the FBI still advises that you practice certain safety measures to minimize your risk, which includes never using certain pumps. "Choose a fuel pump that is closer to the store and in direct view of the attendant," the agency recommends. "These pumps are less likely to be targets for skimmers."
The FBI also suggests other ways to keep yourself safe at the gas station.
If you've been getting gas for years now with no problem, you might find it hard to believe that you could ever become a victim of skimming. But according to the FBI, it's "estimated that skimming costs financial institutions and consumers more than $1 billion each year." Because it takes just seconds for a criminal to place a skimmer in a gas pump, per the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), it's a crime that shows no signs of abating.
Besides never fueling at more out-of-the-way pumps, the FBI says there are other ways to keep yourself safe. The first recommendation is not paying outside at the pump at all. "Consider paying inside with the attendant," the FBI advises, as it's harder for criminals to get skimmers in these card readers. If you do want to pay at the pump, run your debit card as a credit card in order to ensure more protection.
"If you think you've been a victim of skimming, contact your financial institution immediately," the FBI advises.