Monday, January 7, 2013

Card thieves 'skimming' pay-at-the-pump customers

As if the high cost of gas wasn't enough, credit and debit card users who pay at the pump have to face a new way to be gouged at the pump: skimmers.

Skimmers are inconspicuous electronic devices that thieves install either inside or outside a gas pump. These small and inexpensive devices record card numbers as you pay for your petrol.  Free-roaming fraudsters and gas station insiders then help themselves to the card information in the skimming devices, then go out and use the stolen card numbers to make fraudulent purchases.

According to electronic payments expert Richard Crone, of the 1.36 million gas pumps in the United States, an estimated 700,000 gas pumps accept pay-at-the-pump -- and not one of those pumps is secure against skimming.

Some skimmers also incorporate the use of tiny remote cameras to capture PIN numbers of debit card users who enter them at pump-side.

More technologically advanced skimmers are turning to wireless technology, to intercept signals some gas stations use to transmit card data from the pumps to their central computers.  Instead of manually installing the equipment on the pumps, they can lurk in their cars nearby while downloading your card information to a laptop, says Jeff Wakefield, a vice president with VeriFone, the largest secure payment terminal vendor.
But the basic technique for getting credit and debit card data from gas pumps is not rocket science: Crooks simply attach card-skimming devices to exposed wiring inside the pump to collect card data before it is secured, according to Wakefield.

Other skimming technology attaches outside the pump. The devices can cost anywhere from $50-$600 and can be as small as a pager. The card swipe is essentially captured twice: once for the gas purchase and then again for the crooks. The devices are then removed from the pump at a later date or time.

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Please leave a comment if you have any other information on ways to save money and get out of debt!

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