Have you heard the appalling stories about the “skimmers” who steal personal financial information when you pay at the gas pump? My son was a victim.

The safest way to protect your information is to pay with cash. Most of us use debit, credit or gift cards for convenience, to keep track of spending and to rack up perk points!

If you use a credit card, the transaction generally is completed without a PIN (personal identification number). Sometimes they will ask for your zip code. Debit cards can cause problems because they require using a PIN. The thieves use card skimmers to gain access to your entire bank account! Think very carefully about the convenience verses the risk of sliding that debit or credit card in the little slot before pumping gas.

Always check your card statements carefully. If you see any unknown charges, call the card company immediately. Skimmers often wait weeks or months before using your card information to start small, then increase the charges during numerous shopping sprees.

Be as safe as possible by using gas pumps closer to the store or attendant, even if you pay by cash. When leaving the car to pay for the transaction and to pump the gas, always take the car keys and lock the car doors. For card users, be aware that skimmers can gain easier access to the pumps that are hidden from direct view of the attendants.

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