Holiday Travelers Should Be Wary of New Payment Data Risk at Gas Stations

By David Wall,

Chief Information Officer

‘Tis the season… for joy and celebration and spending time with family and friends. It’s a time of year most people look forward to for many reasons, not the least of which is the traditions attached to the holiday period which, for many, includes travel. If you’re one of millions of people driving to visit your relatives this holiday season, there are plenty of things to deal with, from packing to wrapping presents, scheduling and, of course fighting holiday traffic.

This year, though, there’s something else to worry about. If you’re driving during the holidays, you’re going to eventually end up at a gas station, where you may be putting your payment cards at risk more than usual. Card skimmers have been around for a long time, but they can often be recognized by smart consumers and reported.

But, cyber criminals are getting more advanced and Visa has warned consumers of a new, growing risk at the pumps. A sophisticated hacking group has exploited vulnerabilities in gas station point-of-sale networks that allow them to install malware to intercept payment data from magnetic strip readers without any physical skimmer needed.

The problem is these attacks are undetectable to customers – until their accounts are used for fraudulent purchases or personal information is used in other ways, like opening new accounts. But, they are not entirely powerless. Because chip transactions have not been compromised through these breaches, customers should look for gas stations that have updated their technology and are using PIN or chip readers. Of course, good old cash is also a safe alternative.

Gas stations are facing an October 2020 deadline for installing chip readers at pumps, but until then, customers should be aware of the risk of using stripe readers.

This is yet another example of the continued threats to consumers’ financial and personal information, with new breaches reported almost daily that can cause significant hardship – or, at the very least, inconvenience – to victims. If you’ve suspect any of your financial information has been exposed in any way, please contact The Milford Bank right away so we can assist in resolving the issues. We also recommend subscribing to our Security E-Newsletter which offers informative articles and keeps you abreast of the latest threats.

Fraud and identity theft are the last thing anyone wants to have to deal with, least of all during the holidays. Staying informed and knowing how to reduce your exposure to risk can go a long way in keeping your accounts and data safe, and making sure you can enjoy the season.