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With the summer travel season in high gear, the FTC is warning drivers about skimming scams at the pump.

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.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid a skimmer when you gas up:

  • 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."

Photo credit: National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and Conexxus

  • Look at the card reader itself. Does it look different than other readers at the station? For example, the card reader on the left has a skimmer attached; the reader on the right doesn’t.

Photo credit: Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Kamloops, Canada

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’re 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. For more information, read Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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Princess D
August 07, 2018
Thank you for posting these pictures as would not have known what to look for.
August 07, 2018
Thank you, FTC for this warning. I found one of these at my local rural gas stop recently.
Robert Dinning
August 07, 2018
Thanks for the good info.
August 07, 2018
Great info. I work at a gas station and more and more folks are pre-paying. Smart!
August 07, 2018
Some good advice, especially the one to wiggle the card reader before you use it. I've had my card stolen from a gas pump at about 4 times. More recently, with the seals over the door and even some stations now have a warning signal that goes off inside the store when this door is opened. These measures have helped me greatly. However, they are now attaching the scammers directly over the readers at gas pumps and the ATM's.
August 07, 2018
I live in NJ where it's illegal to pump your own gas. My gas tank is on the passenger side, so I can't even see the pump. What can I do to avoid this scam?
September 28, 2018

In reply to by 75mph

My credit card was scammed this way. My credit card company said gas stations are notorious for these scams. I always pay cash now. 1)pay cash at all gas stations. 2) ask for a receipt
August 07, 2018
I believe this method of skimming has also been used at the drive-through windows at fast-food restaurants. Once they retrieve your credit card info, these skimmers will wait months, sometimes years, before they use the info to purchase items. In my case, bank transactions purchasing gift-cards at Walmart stores in 4 different states less than a minute apart approximately the same $ amount. Fortunately, it was easy to prove the bank transactions were fraudulent. I would be interested in seeing a warning on skimmers at fast-food restaurant as well.
Bibi 07
August 07, 2018
Mid July 2018, we were in Orlando; some gaz pumps could not read our Visa; we had to go inside to pay=they said they "locked" the credit card reader at the pump because of too many skimmers- many (like us) do not know how to detect those-..nice to know they can do that. They charged us 50 dollars. But the fill up was only 42.45- they told us they void the 50; and charge only 42.45.. Glad to see good and honest merchants.Bibi07
August 07, 2018
I have tried to share several articles from this site on Facebook, but I get a message that I am not allowed. Why aren't your articles share-able?
August 07, 2018

In reply to by tgardner

There are three sharing icons under the title of this article. Have you tried the one for Facebook?

August 07, 2018

In reply to by ctressler

I tried the Facebook icon, got a message that the default settings would not allow this page to be shared. Not sure if that is me or you, but I have not gotten that error message any where else.
Muggi 5
August 07, 2018
thank you, very informative, will pass it on
August 07, 2018
My debit card and pin was stolen by a skimmer in Orlando, FL. Before I knew what happened, they had taken almost $400 out of my account by going to various gas stations and taking out just under $100 each time. I got the money back but not until my bank investigated. Now I pay inside to the cashier and I get a receipt. It's a pain in the butt, but my money is safer this way.
August 07, 2018
Thank you for the updates!
August 07, 2018
There skimmer detectors for smart phones. Have one on my android phone. Just start the app and hold up to the card reader. Hane not seen a positive read on it, but tells me no skimmer is found.
August 08, 2018

In reply to by dusty

I have an IPhone 7 plus. What is the name of the app on the smart phone?
August 08, 2018

In reply to by jdadavis12

I don't know what it would be on an iPhone but the one I use on Android is called Skimmer Scanner. You should find one if you search for that.
August 07, 2018
I wouldn't even use a debit card at a gas station, with or without a pin. Much safer with a credit card. And also, use only familiar gas stations you trust. Costco and Shell around the Colorado Springs area are generally safe because they do use the red tamper proof tape. My only issue with that is, what's to keep a thief from using his own tamper proof tape to make it look like the pump is tamper proof?
August 07, 2018
Skimmed for over 11,000 Euro or about $14 or $15K whatever the exchange rate was at the time in '9, '10 at a drive through bank. (I will always go into a bank for cash). Had an excellent local Detective and US Fraud Department. Yet, had to eat it anyway. I did not check an account on which I had no need to do business with, except for a minor last transaction.
August 07, 2018
guess they are not using cameras at the pumps?Went to a store in Elmira N.Y. once I used my card at the register to pay .I got a call from the bank and asked me if I have been at that store lately I told him yes.Their security told me they stole $30.00 from my acct.I gave them a description of the girl at the register, and the next day bank called me ,I went over there and they gave me back $30..
September 14, 2018

In reply to by ricoshea

I live in Corning NY it's not that far from Elmira. It's scary and I thought it only happens in the big city but I guess they're everywhere!
August 07, 2018
Thanks for the heads up. It is getting harder and harder to trust anyone.
August 07, 2018
Hate to ask the obvious, but why don't they use better locks on the panel doors. Maybe two locks that need two people to open. Have never seen this used.
Bmore Lady
August 07, 2018
Also be very careful using your bank's outside ATM machines. Just last week someone got into my account and stole $100 dollars from my savings. Two days before this happened, I used my bank's outside ATM machine to get money, and the machine must have had either a skimmer or camera attached to it which recorded my card number and passcode. Luckily for me the same day the person stole the money I went into my bank account to check my balance because I wanted to buy something from Amazon and I saw the fraudulent transaction. I immediately called my bank's 24 hr number since the bank was closed on Sunday and they cancel the card. The next day I went to the bank to get a new card and told them what happened and they gave me back the $100.
November 23, 2018

In reply to by Bmore Lady

Wow! Who do you bank with? I have had some issues with my account and they weren't helpful at all. It was already bad enough that someone was using my card, but they acted like they couldn't care less. This was Wells Fargo in NC.
February 26, 2021

In reply to by Bmore Lady

i'm having that problem now with my bank trying to get $95 back from someone taking my cc number & using it about 100 miles away. I have to wait till the bank does an investigation which takes about 10 days before i get my money back. I used my card at bank atm also.
August 08, 2018
Thanks for posting the pictures! They are a big help.
Ms. Gray
August 08, 2018
The photos are VERY helpful!
August 08, 2018
Please continue posting these photos as they become available so that we can stay ahead of the skimmers...if that's possible!
Pavlov Creed
August 08, 2018
Truly simply informative illustrations and read matter!
August 09, 2018
ey.I got hack at Walmart gas pump twice last year, During the summer I was able to catch it. but last Christmas they took all my money. I was so hurt. What hurt so bad, I was going to Christmas shop, pay check just got deposited, got gas soon as I got off work, went to Walmart to get a few things, no money. went by bank, to late over a thousand dollars, go in second. Bank put a stop on debit card. next few days card was use in New York, Foxworth casino in Conn. the UK and Africa. I still haven't recover. took me two months to get money back. overdraft fees was outrage. at the end of it all, I end up paying 170 dollar in over draft fees, Look like the bank took advance of me. when I went to talk to bank manage about fees, she said she was busy. I really didn't get all my money back. I complained to gas station, say they have nothing to do with the pumps, I wrote murphy, they never response to my letter or email. I ask the girl at the gas station, while they sitting around laughing and talking, why don't they check gas pump, and see if there a device on the gas pump. I worked to hard for my mon
August 09, 2018
another example of how much better & easier "tech" has made everyone's lives.
August 09, 2018
THANK YOU! all the TV news reports tell you what to look for, but never show an actual picture. Now I see what to look for on the pump. Thx
August 09, 2018
What keeps the thieves from replacing the label after installing the skimmers?
August 16, 2018

In reply to by Cappy

That's why its recommendations to shake the card holder because the tape wouldn't stop the whole face plate from moving. Unfortunately these are measures people got to take cause of trash.
August 15, 2018
It happened to me at Sheetz in Burlington, NC
Cam Man
August 17, 2018
this is happening with some frequency especially at un-manned pay at the pump sites. If it looks fishy... play it safe and use another pump or location.
Not Your Bank
September 16, 2018
I use cash and cash ONLY at gas stations, grocery stores, and everywhere else. I got "skimmed" just once by someone who duplicated my card and then went on a spree in Chicago, where I have never been. Bank of America refunded everything to my account. They were going to charge fees but I threatened to close my account, so they backed off. Be firm, say NO and use credit cards only when you absolutely have to.
October 13, 2018
Somehow was hit for nearly 1800$ on the cashapp or square. Happened randomly one day. Somehow someone got my info. I strongly believe I was skimmed while I was at a gas pump here in central Texas. Bank emailed me. Dealing with the Fraud department now to resolve the issue. I hope my money gets returned and I don’t have to eat it. Not a good way to wake up on a Saturday morning before work.
November 23, 2018
Government should make it mandatory for gasoline station owners to secure their pumps. They should be fined for every ID theft that occurs with their unsecured pumps.
November 24, 2018
I did my every 2-3 month review of bank statement & found an unknown charge at a UNITED PACIFIC Gas Station off Powers & Constitution in Colorado Springs for an odd amount of $7.17. We cannot be 100% sure of never using this gas station but as far as on that day we did not. This caused me to review ALL my statements from 2018 and found a total of 11 unknown charges at the same gas station with 6 of the charges for the same $7.17 and the other 5 for amounts less than $12. Very odd! We disputed with bank though we do not think we will get back any of the amounts dating past 90 days.
November 28, 2018
Im getting calls about sweestake winnings That I must send them money,they know what places are close to me to send the money from. The
December 04, 2018
A great way to catch thieves is to use your credit card app that immediately contacts you via email and text whenever a purchase is made on your account. If you get a notice of a purchase you didn't make, you can contact your credit card company and stop any other transactions quickly, and you won't be liable for any that you report. Never use a debit card because the money comes out of your account immediately and is much harder to get back.
February 28, 2019
Carders - it's a big problem for automatic gas stations. People at gas stations, as usual, busy. They put their cards write in carders hands.
May 29, 2019
Got $10 dollars worth of gas and that evening I was online checking my email, I had an alert from my bank stating my card got declined for $75 5 minutes after I was there. Turning my cards off when I'm not going to need to use them is a habit of mine and it paid off that time but how did that happen so quick!
dont worry
December 24, 2020

In reply to by whitusdw

That is just a preauthorised hold which every gas pump does. Nothing fraudulent.
August 25, 2019
This is and has been a huge problem in Florida for years. Don’t pay at the pump- go inside.