How to protect yourself from skimmers at gas pumps

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MANCHESTER -- The Department of Consumer Protection has issued a warning for people to be on the lookout for skimmers at gas pumps. It's happening more and more these days, especially during the holiday season when people are more vulnerable, the DCP said.

In fact, DCP said the number of incidents roughly doubled this year compared to last year.

Tuesday, at All Town Gas Station in Manchester, the DCP demonstrated how to protect yourself from getting your money stolen.

So how do you protect yourself?

"The best thing to do is pay inside," said Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris. That's opposed to the standard recommendation that you use traceable forms of payments, but cash is always king at gas stations he said. "Cash first, credit cards next, then I'd say you can use your credit with your bank card, but debit, I'd definitely stay away."

As Connecticut roadways are packed with holiday traffic, gas pumps will be busy as well so the DCP is making sure customers have the information they need to protect their money. Skimming devices, which are designed to steal credit and debit card information at gas pumps, are popping up all around the state.

Harris expects most gas stations to install chip card readers on its pumps by 2020, further minimizing the risk of skimming.

Skimming devices are not visible from the outside, and are internally installed, so it's important to take a look before inserting your card. If you must use the card reader outside, here are some important tips to help keep your information secure:

  • Always check the seal on the gas pump, which is usually red and covers the pump's lock
  • If the seal looks suspicious or tampered with, or is broken, it might mean someone tried to install a skimming device
  • Also, if the card reader looks suspicious or tampered with, steer clear and notify officials.
  • Make sure the cabinet is closed on the pump - many stations are now putting up security tape to be certain the seal of that tape hasn't been broken.
  • Use pumps closest to the door as most thieves tamper with pumps furthest away from the cashier so they aren't noticed as quickly.
  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card, typically they have better fraud protection. If you use a debit card, run it as credit to keep your PIN number safe.
  • Monitor your bank accounts regularly.