Those Gas Pump “Anti-Skimming” Stickers Are Really Just Pointless Decoration

Hey ID thieves! Did you break a security sticker while installing a card-skimming device on a gas pump? No problem. You can buy 500 replacement stickers for only $69.

Hey ID thieves! Did you break a security sticker while installing a card-skimming device on a gas pump? No problem. You can buy 500 replacement stickers for only $69.

More than four years ago, a number of gas stations in the U.S. started slapping stickers on gas pump credit card readers in an effort to cut down on illegal card skimmers that steal customers’ payment info. And almost immediately, these same gas stations showed they had no idea what to do with these stickers. A new report shows that not only do some companies not really care about these stickers, but that anyone can buy them.

NBC Los Angeles recently investigated a viewer’s complaint about a broken security sticker at a gas station in Burbank. The customer noticed that the sticker on her pump had been breached, causing the previously solid red background to read “VOID OPEN” in big white letters.

“When I went in to go tell the person who was working, I saw other stickers had been ripped off or said ‘Void’ on them as well,” she recalls. “I told him and he said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.'”

The manager told NBC that it was just an oversight and one of his employees had forgotten to change some old stickers.

Reporters found similar broken, voided, and peeling stickers at other stations in the area.

This nonchalance about the stickers is cause for concern when you consider the widespread problem of card-skimming at gas stations.

When Florida regulators did a spot check of gas pumps in the state, they turned up 103 skimmers. Even though that’s a small percentage of all the pumps tested, if you think about the number of people who use a single gas pump in a day and then multiply that by 103, and then figure that on a national level, you see how big the problem could be.

Of course, it’s not as if a clean security sticker is any guarantee that someone hasn’t cracked the seal and installed a skimmer. As NBC learned, anyone can purchase a pack of 500 of these seals for $69 from a site linked to by the National Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, the folks who co-created this program in the first place.

Big chains like Shell, Chevron, and Texaco may use branded versions of these seals that are more difficult to copy, but that only matters if you know that these chains only use branded seals. If a skim-scammer were to crack open a Chevron-branded sticker, install his skimmer, then place a generic seal on top of it, most drivers would be none the wiser.

And, as explained in a statement by Chevron, only Chevron-owned stores get the branded stickers free of charge. Independently owned Chevron stations have to pay for theirs (but they get a discount).

The chains maintain that these stickers are only really for the customers’ benefit, and that the real security is the locks on the pumps. That may be true, but if you’re going to put on a show for your customers, at least put on one that doesn’t look like a crime scene.

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