How to outsmart credit card skimmers at gas stations

Elissa Rivas Image
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
How to outsmart credit card skimmers at gas stations
These tips from HPD's Cyber and Financial Crimes Unit are key to outsmarting evolving credit card skimming devices.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Paying at the pump is practically an act of faith for drivers like Asha Wilson.

"I know sometimes there's tape on there," said Wilson. "I don't really know what it means, but I'm like, 'is the tape there?'"

Credit card skimmers are a widespread problem in Texas. Houston Police Sgt. Jeff Headley, who is part of the department's Cyber and Financial Crimes Unit, said that's exactly what he hears from the banking industry.

"Twenty-eight percent of their loss originates from Houston," said Headley. "That's a number we don't like being known for."

While banks may take the bulk of the loss, your money and identity could be at risk.

"Newer pumps are more secure, so the stations that have newer pumps with the large displays tend to be more secure," said Headley.

What about those seals on the pumps? Is that a guarantee the pump is secure?

"It's still relying on employees at the gas stations to check those pumps everyday, and make sure that the number on the seals matches the number on their latest logs," said Headley.

RELATED: Here's how you can detect a card skimmer on a gas pump

You may try to outsmart a skimmer by detecting it with your phone, but Headley says that does not always work.

"These keylogger-type devices within the pump can sometimes be read by a sniffer app on your phone, but only right after a card is read," said Headley.

So how does Headley pay for gas? With an app, of course!

We tried one from Exxon. It allows you to choose and turn on a pump via your smartphone, and sets the purchase in motion.

"You're not putting any of your financial information through that pump's point of sale system for it to capture it," said Headley.

RELATED: How this Exxon Mobil app can help you avoid credit card skimmers

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