Recently NBC News did a report on the increase of Gas Pump skimmers. According to this report they are showing up at more gas stations across the country. So what is a gas pump skimmer? This is a device that is placed inside the pump. It usually goes between the card reader and the rest of the pump. The access panel is unlocked, the card reader is unplugged and the skimmer is plugged into the reader with the remaining cable plugged into the other end of the skimmer.
So the question is how do the thieves get the gas pump panel key in the first place? The majority of pumps in the market place use an inexpensive lock. These locks have been in use for so long there is no longer any key control. This is changing very rapidly. Pump manufacturers are installing high security locks on their pumps. This will increase key control and help prevent thieves from opening the card reader panels. The keys that the thieves have will no longer work on these high security locks.
Many gas stations and convenience store chains are being pro-active by changing the locks on their current pumps, rather than waiting until they purchase new pumps.
So how does the consumer know if the pump is secured with the new high security locks? The average consumer doesn’t know. This can be helped by the gas station posting signs saying what they are doing to prevent skimming. Until then the consumer should be smart about where they purchase gas. Try using pumps that are well lighted and close to the attendant’s line of sight. If you don’t feel comfortable you could go inside and pay. Look at the pumps themselves; do any panels seem loose? Some stations put security seals across the panel. Are they there and not broken?
You should also consider using a credit card rather than a debit card. If you use a debit card a thief can empty your bank account. Credit cards offer more protection, the major one being that they are not attached directly to your back accounts. I have written about using debit cards in the past, this is just another reason why I am not a big debit card fan.
It appears over the next few years gas pump security will increase quickly. Companies like Locking Systems International are helping both manufacturers and gas stations to secure their pumps as fast as possible.