Anyone who drives a car must eventually go to a gas station. However, this puts them at risk of falling for scams. Gas station owners may have created simple or elaborate scams to trap customers, often by using technology.
In this article we cover the types of gas station scams you could face and what to look out for.
Credit Card Skimming
Credit Card Skimming is a common scam that most people do not catch on to. This happens when the payment card reader on the pump includes a device that skims the card user’s information. Hidden cameras at the gas station can also record the user entering the PIN number. Skimmers may only be attached with tape so the thief can get them quickly. You can easily pull them off with a little tug if you spot one. If you do, contact the authorities to help prevent other customers from falling prey to that machine.
Tampered Credit Card Machines
Credit card skimmers can be placed inside a gas pump itself through tampering with the front panel. Tamper-proof stickers are often applied to the door of the credit card machine on the pump. If it says “Void”, then it may have been tampered with, and you should move on to another pump or gas station.
If the device looks like it is a mismatch of machinery, then maybe it has been changed by the owner or someone else.
When entering your PIN number into a card reader machine, make sure to cover your hand with your other hand so a camera or another person cannot see it. Many times, cameras are on the outside of the building, so going inside to pay may be a good solution.
Pinhole cameras may also be located near a credit card skimmer to record the PIN entered by the user. These are very hard to spot unless you know what to look for. Once recorded, the user’s credit card information can be used to withdraw bank account funds, and make charges on credit fraudulently. If possible, always use a credit card rather than a debit card for purchases at a gas station. Pinhole cameras are most likely located near or above the keypad of the pump or card reader. If you are worried one is nearby, you can cover the keypad with one hand while you type in your
Criminals can switch the pump hoses from one side of a two-sided pump island to another and wait for a victim to pay for their fillup. This is an uncommon scam and requires that the thief alter the mechanics of the pump.
A person could think they are filling up their tank and not worry about it. However, what’s really happening is they are filling up a thief’s gas tank.
This also means the thief will not hang around for long after his tank is filled by the victim. No fuel will enter the victim’s tank, but he will be paying for it.
If the pump hose is not directly connected to the side of the island that you are using, it may be used to scam you. So, watch out for this.
Many panhandlers will hang around the gas station to get money from customers by presenting tails of distress or woe.
Some will be asking for money for a trip they are taking somewhere, others will say they need it for food.
To make sure the money you give is being used well, offer to pay for their gas instead of just giving them cash.
If you are a female, then pumping gas can put you at risk of a purse snatcher who sees you left it on your passenger seat while you pay inside.
It only takes a few seconds for a thief to open a door or reach through a window and whisk them away.
The solution is to never leave your wallet or purse inside your car when visiting a gas station.
Overcharged For Gas
Gas station owners or employees can manipulate gas pumps to deliver less gasoline than they charge their customers. This can be as small as a few cents per gallon but adds up over time across hundreds of customers. It is possible to catch this scam but requires doing some quick basic math.
Sometimes, the gas station attendant can offer a discount while charging for credit and the customer will likely not notice. This type of scam is particularly popular in Mexico and other poor countries to take advantage of tourists.
So, make sure to watch the pump closely to see if there are price and quantity discrepancies. Also, get a receipt of your purchase and check it thoroughly.
These scam artists will take a large denomination bill and then claim you gave them less than required by showing you a small bill as proof. This is common in poorer countries and those that receive a lot of tourists. Watch out for these types of gas station attendants and pay attention to the bills you hand out to them.
Solution #1: Review your Credit Card Account
After you have paid for gas with a credit card, make sure to review your account later to check if any extra unauthorized charges were made that you can dispute. If you haven’t set up fraud alerts with your financial institutions, make sure to do so.
Solution #2: Report The Scam
The gas station clerk may actually be able to help you, so report it to them if you notice a problem with the pump. Also, you can report it to your state’s department of weights and measures. Take a video on your phone of the pump in action making false quantities and charges to be used as evidence.
Solution #3: Pay Cash to the Attendant
The solution to many of these is simply to walk inside the gas station and pay the attendant with cash instead of using either a credit card or debit card. This way, no card or ID information will be stolen, preventing ID theft or financial loss. This can save much time and effort when disputing a fraudulent credit charge, changing your accounts, or repairing credit damage. A more risky action is to pay the attendant with a credit card, but this is still less risky than using an outdoor credit card reader.
Gas station scams are avoidable if you know what to look for and take the right precautions. If you are ever the victim of one of these scams, make sure to immediately contact the authorities and your financial institutions to resolve any problems.