As I was driving down the U.S. East Coast from Northern Virginia to the Florida Keys three weeks ago, I stopped at several gas stations to fill up my tank, and a note I saw stuck to every pump at one gas station in North Carolina especially struck me. I’ve seen some gas stations display one set of prices on the pricing board, but charging higher prices for card payment at the pump, encouraging you to pay by cash (so they could avoid their credit card processing fees), but this one was different… I took a photo of it (see below) to post about this in my blog.
The moment I saw this, I immediately remembered an article I read in January of this year, which talked about the most dangerous places to use your debit card. Gas stations were first on that list! Why? Here’s a direct quote from that article:
Be especially vigilant at gas stations, Litan says. “Gas pumps are notorious for skimming because they’re produced by only a couple of different manufacturers, and if someone gets the key to one from a disgruntled employee, they can insert a skimming device inside the pump where it can’t be seen,” she says. She recommends using a credit card rather than a debit card when you fill your tank.
If you must use a debit card at the gas pump, choose the screen prompt that identifies it as a credit card so that you do not have to type in your PIN. The purchase amount will still be deducted from your bank account, but it will be processed through a credit-card network, which will give you greater protection from liability if fraud does occur.
I find it interesting (to put it mildly) that a gas station would encourage consumers to make themselves vulnerable to fraud. Yes, $0.06 in savings per gallon would’ve saved me over a dollar on a tank of gas. But was the risk really worth it?