Don’t let skimming happen at your location. Skimming is a form of fraud whereby  a customer’s credit or debit card information is stolen by “skimmers” and then used to make fraudulent purchases or withdrawals. Gas stations and ATMs are primary targets because of the use of credit and debit cards at self service terminals. It is a difficult crime to detect because the equipment is often overlooked by the untrained eye, and there is typically a lapse in time between when the information is stolen and when it is used to make fraudulent purchases. Often times these crimes go unnoticed until the customer checks their bank statement or receives a call from their financial institution. As a station operator there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your customers from these types of crimes, therefore it is important to understand how skimming works in order to prevent it.

Real Card Reader Slot FramedSkimming involves installing a piece of hardware over the credit card reader at the point of sale, typically the dispenser. Skimmers come in several forms and complexities. Some are easy to install requiring only double stick tape, while others are more complicated, requiring the removal of the faceplate of a dispenser. Once the skimming device is installed it records the numbers of all the credit cards that are used at that dispenser. Once recorded the numbers can be wirelessly or manually retrieved from the skimmer.  After the data is retrieved the perpetrators encode the card numbers onto fake credit, debit or gift cards. These cards are then used to make fraudulent purchases.

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The most effective way to stop skimming at your location is spotting it before it happens. Train your employees to identify what a card skimmer looks like and schedule time during each day to inspect the dispensers. Provide photos of what the card dispenser should look like. If a customer is spending too long at a dispenser or appears to be tampering with the credit card reader, inspect it after they leave to be sure it has not been manipulated. If you notice someone around your station on a computer or cell phone for long periods of time they could be downloading the data wirelessly.  Be cautious of non-scheduled maintenance to your dispensers, as scammers will pose as technicians and install skimmers during “maintenance”.

If you believe you have detected a skimmer, take the suspected dispenser offline and notify the police. Do not try to confront or detain suspected skimmers. If you have confirmed a skimmer at your location you should inform your bank, credit and debit card processor and your dispenser technician. There is not a foolproof plan to prevent skimming at your station, but being aware of the problem and taking the steps to prevent and detect it is good for your business and your customers.