After a spate of credit card skimming devices being discovered at gas stations across the region this year, including in Arlington, AAA Mid-Atlantic is warning motorists to be extra cautious when paying at the pump.
Several gas stations in Cherrydale as well as a Shell station on S. Four Mile Run Drive appeared to have been hit by the skimmers earlier this year. The skimmers are installed inside pumps and ATMs and copy customers’ card information for fraudulent use by criminals, who use Bluetooth technology to receive the stolen credit card numbers in seconds.
Anyone who suspects a skimmer in their gas pump can check by jiggling the credit card slot to see if it is askew or asymmetrical.
More from John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs:
The caper may crop up, lawmen forewarn, in other counties, cities and communities across the Greater Washington area, as dodgy perpetrators try to stay steps ahead of the reach of the law’s long arm and catch local consumers unawares as they purchase fuel. To safeguard your debit or credit card, and protect your finances, only buy gas at stations that affix security seals to the fuel dispenser. Always remember the motto ‘Let the buyer beware’ (caveat emptor) when making a gas transaction.
This year, skimmers have been discovered in parts of Maryland as well as Alexandria, Bailey’s Crossroads, Centreville, Tysons Corner, Vienna, and in areas around Prince William and Frederick counties. In the last 12 months, AAA said, Fairfax County Police have removed “21 individual skimmers from 15 different locations.”
AAA gave the following advice to those using self-service gas pumps:
- Park at pumps close to the front door of the gas station if possible. Criminals tend to install the skimmers on an outside pump farthest from where the clerks can see them.
- Check for Bluetooth skimmers embedded inside pumps at a gas station using your cell phone. Turn on your Bluetooth setting and look for a series of random numbers and letters. It may be a telltale sign a Bluetooth-enabled skimming device is interleaved into the gas kiosk. Do not connect to the Bluetooth device.
- Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and inspect the card reader at the pump. Look for signs of tampering. If it looks like it’s been opened or its security tape has been broken, inform the cashier and do not use that pump.
- Pay for your gas inside the store.
- Use cash instead of your credit card.
- Monitor your bank statements constantly. Look for overdraft notices. Skimming criminals may wait months before using your information and then go on a sudden spending spree.
Photo via Google Maps