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March 3, 2019

Avoid skimmers at gas stations

Card skimming has become a common crime in the US and now we should also be aware of this while traveling in Italy. Criminals steal our card details by attaching an illegal reader into the credit card slot at a gas pump. When you swipe or insert your card, this reader copies the information from the magnetic strip on your card. But how can you protect yourself and avoid skimmers at gas stations? Here are a few ways.

Pay inside the station house with cash or credit card – not at the pump

There is less chance criminals place card skimmers in the gas pumps just in front of the gas station or convenience store. However, it takes only a few seconds to place a skimmer on a card reader, as this video shows, if a clerk is distracted

Choose the pump closest to the building to avoid skimmers

The pumps furthest away from the station house are most likely to have skimmers. Avoid especially the pumps not visible from inside the station house or convenience store.

When you pay, use credit cards, not debit cards

The big benefit with credit cards is that you are using the bank’s money, and are covered by a zero liability policy with most banks. But with a debit card, and if the crooks see your PIN, they would get to your own money, not the bank’s. You can still get refunded from skimmed debit cards, but this can take a lot of time and effort.

Use your phone app and digital wallet to avoid skimmers

You can avoid skimmers at the gas pump with payment apps. Pay by phone if you have Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay or a mobile wallet. By using your phone at gas stations, you never swipe or insert your card into the payment reader that could contain a skimmer. What happens is that your phone should automatically sense the presence of the terminal and open the Wallet app. Here’s more about payment apps.

Check your card statement and fraud alerts

Every issuer offers fraud alerts on your credit and debit cards. Set these up and they will email or text you when your card is used at a gas station. You should  frequently check your credit card and debit card transactions to make sure no fraudulent activity has occurred.

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