How to Prevent Theft at Fuel Stations: Don’t be Fooled by Credit Card Skimmers.

With fuel prices skyrocketing every month, using a fuel credit card to gain some add-on discounts on fuel refills is a prudent option. Apart from exciting reward points and a credit score boost, fuel credit cards also come with annual fee waivers, co-branded benefits, and much more. However, the convenience and benefits of using a fuel credit card also come with a flip side. 

When you’re swiping these cards at gas stations, you risk falling prey to credit card scams and identity thefts. Using various technological tools, credit card scammers skim your data to make counterfeit cards, over-the-counter transactions, and online payments. 

Ways to Protect Yourself From Credit Card Scams at Fuel Stations 

As of 2022, India has over 77 million active credit card users. With several lenders offering secured credit cards, securing a line of credit even against a low credit score is becoming easy. Thus, this figure is expected to grow exponentially. 

However, as per a recent study, 42% of Indians have experienced credit card fraud in the last 3 years. To ensure that you’re not the next victim, it’s always better to be cautious. To protect yourself from credit card fraud at gas stations, you can implement the following measures:

Lookout for Credit Card Skimmers

The most common type of credit card fraud at gas stations happens through card skimming devices. Credit card skimmers are often fixed on card machines used at fuel stations. When your card is swiped through the device, it stores all your details present on your card’s magnetic stripe like card number, expiry date, etc.

Awareness is key in detecting a credit skimmer while getting a refuel. Check to see if the credit card machine looks bulkier than usual due to an additional part or if a portion of it is protruding out. 

Use Cash When in Doubt

While credit cards are no doubt convenient, it’s best to avoid them in situations you fear possible identity theft and fraudulent transactions. Thus, if you suspect a skimming device on the credit card reader, the best way forward is to pay using cash. Alternatively, you can also decide to pay using contactless transaction modes like UPI and mobile wallets. 

Lookout for Electronic Pickpocket Devices

You can also make contactless tap-and-pay payments with a chip-based secured credit card. While the RFID chip implanted on your card keeps you safe from skimming devices, you should still look out for electronic pickpocket devices. 

Scammers can simply walk past you with an electronic pickpocketing device to scan the chipped card. To safeguard your card from these pickpocketing devices, you should be careful of people walking too close to you at the gas station. Keep in mind that the maximum range for scanning an RFID card is 4 inches. For an additional layer of safety, immediately wrap the card in aluminum foil or your RFID-blocking wallet after use at the fuel station. 

Insist the Card be Swiped into your Presence

Sometimes petrol pump employees insist on taking your fuel credit card and swiping it on your behalf. While doing so, they can swipe it on a card-skimming machine before returning it to you. To prevent this, you should insist on the card being swiped in your presence. The bottom line remains: you should never let your card out of sight. 

You should also look out for hidden pinhole cameras that can capture your PIN while you’re transacting. You can keep the keypad hidden while inputting your PIN. 

Use Zero Liability Cards

Several fuel credit cards come with a zero liability clause. Opting for such cards gives you an add-on layer of protection against possible thefts and fraud. These cards simply ensure that you won’t be held accountable for any unauthorized transactions made using the card. 

However, to avail of this benefit, you have to intimate your card issuer immediately if you suspect card fraud at the gas station. Once that’s done, your card will be blocked and all unauthorized transactions covered under the zero liability policy. 

Monitor your Accounts

If you use your credit card frequently, identifying fraudulent transactions can be difficult. Reviewing your credit card statement is the easiest way to pinpoint such transactions. You can also monitor your fuel credit card usage via transaction alerts. 

All credit card issuers now have this system where you are notified of transactions made using the card in real time. However, most of us tend to dismiss transaction messages. To avoid credit card fraud at fuel stations, you should review the transaction amount and check your phone for any other transaction messages. 

The Bottom Line

Diligence and awareness are key to avoiding credit card fraud at gas stations. With credit card scams becoming so rampant, lenders have also improved their checks and balances in place. Most lenders will call you to cross-check high-value or outlier transactions. 

However, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Thus, if you notice suspicious behavior or suspect card machines at the fuel station, you should bring it to the notice of the site in charge. If you feel your credit card has been skimmed, report it immediately to safeguard your account.


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