Getting gas is already a stressful event for many people across the U.S. right now. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), national gas prices hit a record high on June 14 at nearly $5.02. While that number has thankfully fallen to around $4.72, it's still much higher than it was this same time last year at just about $3. Unfortunately, inflated costs are not the only issue you might encounter at the gas station these days. Police just released a warning about a "very frustrating" scam people might encounter while getting gas. Read on to find out what to watch out for.
Police departments across the U.S. have been warning Americans about rising scams.
The average person doesn't know when they're getting conned—which is why officials around the country are always trying to alert Americans about known scams in certain areas.
In December, the San Antonio Police Department issued a public warning about scammers sticking fake QR codes near parking areas to trick people into giving out their credit card information to "pay for paying." And just last month, police in Giles County, Tennessee, cautioned people against grabbing folded money off the ground, warning that it could contain the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl inside.
Police warned about increasing gas theft in March, advising drivers on steps they can take to stay safe. As it turns out, there are other gas-related crimes to be aware of.
Officials have issued a new alert about a gas-related scam.
Simply filing up your tank is not the only way your bank account could get drained at the gas station. Police in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, are now warning Americans to watch out for skimmers on gas pumps, CBS-affiliate News on 6 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, reported on July 7. According to the news outlet, officers say they've received calls about skimmers at at least two different gas stations in town, and have had several people complain about their card information being stolen after getting gas.
"Now you're having to deal with thieves trying to take your money, which is very frustrating," Ethan Hutchins, a public information officer for the Broken Arrow Police Department, told News on 6.
Skimmers can steal your card information without you even realizing it.
One victim in Broken Arrow revealed on Facebook that they had $900 stolen from them after accidentally using a gas pump with a skimmer, according to News on 6. Skimmers are "illegal card readers attached to payment terminals," which can take the data off your credit or debit card's magnetic stripe without you realizing it, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
According to the FTC, criminals either use the data retrieved from these machines to buy things online or they sell it. You likely won't know your information has been stolen until you receive your bank statement or get an overdraft notice. "The fact that people are out there just making devices to steal your identities and just take money that doesn't belong to them is just not right," Ben Edens of Broken Arrow said to News on 6.
There are ways you can try to avoid falling victim to this scam.
Since skimmers are often put inside a card reader on a gas pump and are hard to notice, Hutchins said the best way to prevent getting hit by this scam is to just pay for your gas inside the station. "Thieves are getting more experienced and they're able to actually access these gas pumps easier," he warned.
But if you're not willing to take the trek indoors just to pay, Hutchins recommends that people watch out for any signs of tampering at the gas pump. "Normally you can see some electric tape or some kind of sticker that shows where the card reader is. If it's torn or if it's pulled up, then someone has tried to tamper with it," he explained.
The FTC says other signs of a card skimmer on a gas pump include a card reader that can move when you wiggle it or looks different than other readers at the station. "If you use a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of entering a PIN. That way, the PIN is safe and the money isn't deducted immediately from your account," the agency advises.