For years I have warned you about the dangers of skimmers installed on gas pumps.  Skimmers are small electronic devices that are easily installed by an identity thief on gas pumps, ATMs and other card reading devices.  The skimmer steals all of the information from old style magnetic strip credit card or debit cards which then enables the identity thief to use that information to access the victim’s bank account when the skimmer is used on a debit card.  If a credit card is used, the identity thief can use the stolen information to access the victim’s credit card account.   MasterCard and Visa announced in December of 2016 that the deadline for the installation of EMV chip card readers on gas pumps was being delayed three years to October 1, 2020. The deadline for the installation of EMV chip card readers at gas pumps was originally scheduled for October 1, 2017.  Wider implementation of the use of EMV chip cards at retail stores where their use has been mandated for three years has resulted in a dramatic reduction in data breaches and credit card fraud at retailers using this equipment.  Around the country there has been an increase in the use of skimmers installed by criminals at gas pumps.

Now we are learning of a new problem.  According to Visa, an infamous hacking group known as Fin8 is using phishing emails to lure gas stations into downloading malware that enables the hackers to access the information from the gas stations internal point-of-sale networks to steal credit and debit card information.  It is important to note that for gas pumps that use the EMV chip cards, the hackers efforts are ineffective, however, if you use a magnetic strip card at an infected gas pump, you are in danger of having your card compromised.

TIPS

There is no way for consumers to know if we are using a hacked gas pump.  If the particular gas pump you are using has been updated to accept EMV chip cards, you will not have a problem, however, if as most gas pumps, the one you are using does not accept EMV chip cards, but only magnetic strip credit and debit cards, you are in danger of identity theft.   Fortunately, the solution to this problem is simple.  Refrain from using your debit card for anything other than an ATM card and use your credit card for all of your card purchases including those at gas pumps.  Debit cards, when compromised put the customers at risk of having the bank accounts tied to their cards entirely emptied if the theft is not promptly reported and even if the victim reports the theft immediately, the victim loses access to his or her bank account while the matter is investigated by the bank.  Instead use your credit card and monitor your account regularly to find out early if you have become a victim of this scam. With a credit card, your liability for fraudulent purchases is limited by law to no more than $50 and I am not aware of any credit card companies that hold their customers responsible for any fraudulent purchases. Unfortunately, fraudulent debit purchases do not come with the same legal protection.

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