Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Gas Station Serenity Prayer

Not all of my dad's email forwards have to do with politics.

Here's another recent piece of nonsense:

New way to get swindled. I will clear from now on.

Using the "clear" button
Using credit/debit card?
Read this note very carefully.

I did not know about the clear button, but I will be pushing the clear button before I swipe my gas or debit card and after just to be safe.

People are getting really desperate due to the constantly rising gas prices.

A friend just told me about something that happened to one of his coworkers.
She used her credit/debit card to purchase gas at the pump (like most of us do). She received her receipt like normal.
However, when she checked her statement, there were 2 $50.00 charges added in addition to her purchase. Upon investigation, she found out that because she did not press the 'clear' button on the pump, the employee inside the store was able to use her card to purchase his/her own gas! 
To keep this from happening, after you get your receipt, you must press the 'CLEAR' button or your information will be stored until the next customer inserts their card.
Be sure to tell all your friends/family so that this doesn't happen to them. I had never noticed the clear button but I got gas the other day and sure enough it is there. I shall be using it from now on.
Well, needless pressing of a "clear" button probably isn't going to hurt anyone.  Is it?

Well, keypads do wear out over time.  I'd imagine this would send a few to early retirement.

And, of course, there are your random nutbags who will forget to hit the "clear" button, rush back to the gas station, and accost the staff out of fear that their identities might be stolen.

I suppose, if these things become prevalent, it will cost the gas stations money.  And of course, you know where that money is going to come from - increased prices at the pump.  So, yes.  Hysteria like this can cause harm for the rest of us.

"But", you may ask, "is there any credence to the idea that failing to 'clear' the pump of data might allow a gas station employee to use someone's credit card number?"

Absolutely not.  Once collected and immediately transmitted, credit card numbers are usually not stored at the retail site.  Most companies prefer not to take the risk of being sued for data breaches.  And even the ones that do want to keep credit card data (for some weird reason) are obliged to keep the data encrypted.  And a gas station attendant isn't going to have access to it.

Now some folks might say, "Well, if that's true, how did this original poster get stuck with a couple of $50 charges?"

Well, they could have made it up.  It seems a little bit strange for an identity thief to stop after collecting $100.

But, if they weren't, I'd lay odds on the gas pump being modified with a skimmer.  If a pump were illegally modified, then, yes, it could store or transmit data to a thief.

But the "clear" button won't help you to defeat a skimmer.

Thankfully, they're still rare.  And if they were more common, credit card companies would be devising countermeasures.

But if you're worried - check the benefits on your credit card.  They usually have good protections against identity theft.

And that will help you a lot more than worrying about if you hit a "clear" button.