Fighting skimming at the pump

Card skimming, especially at gas pumps, has become a natural part of conversation for consumers today. Nearly everyone who asks me what I do for a living usually replies with “Oh, you work all those gas pump skimming cases I see on the news.” I then patiently wait for the inevitable story about the person’s last experience as a victim of “card skimming.” 

While we can’t prevent consumers’ exposure to mag-stripe card skimming entirely, there are plenty of reasonable things that consumers can do to reduce their exposure and inconvenience. Here’s some tips to consider passing along to your members as heads-up the next time they fill ‘er up:

There’s nothing funny about “funneling.” Sometimes a broken payment option at the pump is simply a fluke and sometimes it’s a criminal tactic called “funneling.” Criminals will occasionally disable the pay-at-the-pump function in order to make you come inside the store where the actual camera and card capture devices are installed. If you feel unnecessarily observed or unusual bystanders are present, you may feel more comfortable going elsewhere or using a different payment method.

“I just want to say one word to you….Plastics.” The words of advice given to “The Graduate” are in need of updating. Consider taking your traditional plastic card out of the mix entirely by using Apple, Samsung or Android pay. These payment options are referred to as “tokenized” because they eliminate your card’s presence at the point of sale by providing an encoded stand-in referred to as a “token.” Your payment card information cannot be captured in a meaningful way by criminals and tokenized payments are everywhere today. You know that Starbucks app you love so much to pay for your java? Yep – that’s a tokenized payment method and you didn’t even know it.

“Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Here, the old ‘60s counterculture phrase remains a perfectly fitting mantra for today’s consumer:

  • Turn on: Log into your online banking and turn on every single fraud alert they offer. Make sure your most current cell number is available so that your payment card issuer can reach you.
  • Tune in: Check your bank statements for anomalies. If you see a suspicious transaction, report it immediately and request a new payment card if you think someone has gained access to your financial accounts or plastic payment cards.
  • Drop out: Liberate your spending behavior by dropping the urge to swipe and pay. Plastic payment cards are incredibly convenient, but it really boosts your financial health and safety when you can leverage tokenized payments, card controls and account-based alerts.

Whatever the scenario happens to be, the main thing to impress upon your members is the need for them to understand is that vigilance and speed play a significant role in being safer while transacting. The more you passively look at your financial accounts and explore safer payment options, the greater your chances will be for staying above the fray of unauthorized purchases.

John Buzzard

John Buzzard

John Buzzard is Fraud Specialist/Account Executive for CO-OP Financial Services, a financial technology provider to credit unions based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. ( Buzzard can be reached ... Web: Details

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