How to avoid getting skimmed when you’re filling your car with gas


In our ongoing efforts to educate and inform, our partners at Patriot Capital have asked us to share the following article written by Fredrick Kunkle that appeared in the Washington Post on June 16, 2017. Read the original article here.


When you’re filling your car at the gas pump this summer, you could be also be giving a thief access to your bank account or credit card.

Gas stations are a chief target of criminals who use data-grabbing skimmers to siphon data from drivers’ credit and ATM cards, according to law enforcement officials and gas retailers. Almost daily, the secretive and illegal devices are discovered at gas stations across the country, such as here, here and here. Earlier this month, Fairfax County police reported finding 21 skimmers at 15 different locations in the past year.

Skimmers work like legitimate banking card readers, but they are secretly installed in or on the pumps by criminals to steal people’s financial data. Gas stations are particularly vulnerable, but banks and other businesses have also been hit.

“The people who are doing skimming — it’s amazing, some of the things they do,” said Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president for government relations at the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

Gas stations are targeted because of their physical layout and the volume of their business. Thieves find it relatively easy to use gas station islands as cover while they tamper with the machines, Beckwith said. The devices are placed either inside the pumps by thieves who jimmy them open or outside the pumps using overlays on the pump’s card reader. Usually, thieves put one skimmer in a single gas station, but that one device can capture a lot of card data.

NACS, which represents more than 2,100 retailers, says nearly 80 percent of the fuel in the United States is retailed through them. Although only a small fraction of those fill-ups get skimmed, a small fraction of 29 million daily fuel customers can mean a lot. A single skimmer can collect data from 30 to 100 cards a day, NACS says.


The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) says special sealing tape can help consumers and gas station operators spot pumps that have been tampered with. (Screen grab from NACS video; courtesy of NACS)


The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) says special sealing tape can help consumers and gas station operators spot pumps that have been tampered with. (Screen grab from NACS video; courtesy of NACS)

To counter them, retailers have been sealing the pumps with special tape. If you see that the seal is broken, you should not use the machine and should alert the operator, he said.

Retailers think the problem will diminish once consumers and retailers fully adopt chip technology, according to Rob Underwood, president of the Petroleum Marketers Association of America.

“As of now, there is a wait time for retailers to have access to the new equipment, which costs around $20,000 per pump,” Underwood said in an email. He said consumers and retailers will still remain vulnerable to fraud until credit card companies allow retailers to require consumers to use PINs on transactions.

NACS has produced a video for its retailers that’s also helpful for consumers, which you can view here:

Here are some tips from law enforcement officials and retailers to protect you at the pump:

  • Use cards with PIN numbers

You’re better off using a card with a PIN if you buy gas, according to NACS and PMAA. NACS, citing a 2013 Federal Reserve study, says you’re four times more likely to be ripped off if your transaction is made without a PIN.

“Signature-based transactions are processed on the antiquated Visa and MasterCard systems that do not process in real-time, versus the instant operation of PIN debit. Not using PIN also increases the cost of the transactions, which is passed back to the consumer,” NACS says. It also says that even old dispensers have technology to encrypt PIN numbers, and that gas pumps have been equipped with them since the early 1990s. “PINs provide a higher level of security. That is why banks require them for transactions at ATMs,” it says.

However, it should be noted that Fairfax County police say that if you’re ripped off via a credit card, you have more protection as a consumer than if the thieves do somehow get your PIN and access to your bank account.

“When the money comes out of that bank account, it’s a lot more difficult to get reimbursed,” Fairfax County Police Officer Tawny Wright said.

That said, the retailers — who bear the cost for fraud — still say they think customers are better off using the PIN.

  • Avoid older gas pumps if you can

These pumps are easier to break into and tamper with. Newer pumps have technology to prevent being ripped off.

  • Check to see whether the pump has been tampered with

Thieves install internal devices by opening the pumps and putting them inside. But gas stations have fought back by using serial-numbered security tape that track the reasons why the dispenser door was opened. If the tape is cut, damaged or broken, it should “bleed” to alert people that it’s been tampered with, NACS says.

For external skimmers, which are installed over an existing keypad, look to see if the keypad is raised. You can do this by running your fingernail along the edge, NACS says. The skimmer may also be loose or wiggle when  you touch it.

Police said newer Bluetooth skimmers are particularly tricky to detect because they can be hidden entirely inside the pumps.

  • There’s an app for that

Retailers can use the SkimDefend app, along with special NACS tamper-alert decals, to track attempts to mess with the pumps.

  • What should you do if you suspect a pump has been tampered with? 

Customers should alert the gas station operator, who should shut the pump down immediately and have it inspected by a technician.

NACS also advises that no one, including the technician, should touch or remove the device. Let the police handle it. In large cases, the FBI and Secret Service sometimes get involved, NACS says.

  • Check your banking and credit card statements frequently for suspicious charges 

If you see anything out of order, call your bank or credit company to report it right away.

If you are a petroleum retailer unsure as to whether now is the time to upgrade your equipment with EMV technology, have questions about equipment and/or financing, we invite you to contact us at 1.800.451.4021 and along with our partners at Patriot Capital, we can explore your equipment and financing options to ensure your location(s) have the latest and greatest data security and your customers’ bank accounts and credit cards are safe from such data skimming technology and practices.

We appreciate your continued business and support!

Patriot Industry News – How Will Trump’s Tax Cuts Impact You?

This blog post was reproduced from a Patriot Capital newsletter

Does Trump’s Tax Plan Mean Higher Costs for C-Stores?

President Trump has announced one of the largest tax cuts in history. The changes will impact most Patriot Capital newsletter image 1American businesses, including convenience stores.

The planned reduction of taxes proposed for “for corporations, small businesses and partnerships of all sizes” is the headline story. At the same time, the maximum personal income tax rate is proposed to be 35 percent and the number of personal tax rates would drop from seven tiers to three (35 percent, 25 percent, 10 percent).

Considerations for your business include:

  • lower tax rates mean higher after tax costs for equipment due to lower depreciation
  • if the Border Adjustment Tax comes into effect, higher prices for imported components and equipment
  • uncertainty around the fate of Section 179
  • acceleration of interest rate increase

For more on how the new tax proposal could affect your business, read the entire article here.

Three Factors to Consider When Purchasing Convenience Store Equipment

Chris Santy, President of Patriot Capital, shares some key points that need to be considered when deciding whether to invest in equipment upgrades in this article.

When making any investment decision, the first consideration always should be the return on your investment (ROI), Santy’s article discusses three important ROI concerns to consider:

  • What is the cost of the equipment or investment?
  • What will the equipment earn?
  • What could happen to make the return on investment different than expected?

Patriot Capital offers a variety of equipment financing options for C-stores, fuel marketers and jobbers. To get a quick quote, or find an advisor near you, visit the Patriot Capital website or call (877) 527-0383.

NACS Survey Reveals What Fuel Prices Would Trigger Driving Changes

Fuel customers will change their driving habits to decrease their fuel consumption once gas prices reach Patriot Capital newsletter image 2$3.37 per gallon, according to a new NACS Consumer Fuels Survey. The price would have to hit $4.43 before consumers will drastically decrease their driving.

The price of gas also affects how consumers think about broader economic issues. Other issues the survey explored include expectations on future fuel prices, generational differences in consumer attitudes, and consumer perceptions on the reasons for fuel price increases – the good news is they don’t tend to blame the fuel retailer.

Visit the NACS Fuel Resources Center to review a variety of 2017 C-store consumer opinion surveys.

Dirty Pumps, Restrooms Cited Among ‘Four Sins of Fuel Retail’

Filthy gas pumps, malfunctioning card readers, unwelcoming stores, and dirty restrooms are cited as the Patriot Capital newsletter image 3top “Four Sins of Fuel Retail” in a recent editorial by industry strategist Norman Turiano.

Cleanliness at the pumps tops the list. Turiano points out that female consumers are especially reluctant to touch a visibly dirty pump, and this can drive away business.

Dirty restrooms make customers question overall cleanliness, and particularly. wonder about the healthiness of on-site prepared food. Does your site have the right focus on the ‘Four Sins’?

Read the entire article in CSP Daily.

Consumer Optimism Remains High Despite Fuel Price Increases

Consumer optimism is at an all-time high despite rising gas prices, according to a NACS National Patriot Capital newsletter image 4Consumer Fuel Survey.  NACS reports that 61 percent of consumers feel optimistic about the economy, the highest number in the 4-year history of the monthly survey.

Drivers remain optimistic despite the fact that a majority of gasoline consumers expect prices to increase in the next month. Slightly more than half of all Americans report they expect prices to be “much higher” or “somewhat higher”, while only 9 percent expect prices to drop.

Traditionally, rising prices result in decreased consumer optimist. Four years ago, when 85 percent of Americans said that gas prices had increased, 41 percent were optimistic. However, gas prices were more than $1 per gallon higher in 2013 than they are today.


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