How ‘Pump Switching’ Works and How To Avoid It

Alex Harsha
Alex HarshaSep 27, 2023, 5:41 PM
How ‘Pump Switching’ Works and How To Avoid It

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As important as it is to save money, it’s just as critical to stay alert for various financial scams. There are so many out there, including a new gas station scam for be on the lookout for.

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This scam is known as “pump switching,” and here we will look at how it works and how you can avoid it.

What’s the New Pump Switching Scam?

The scam has become so rampant that the police in Philadelphia sent out a public service alert about it. This newest scam targets people using credit cards to pay at the pump. The scammers have been approaching unsuspecting victims at the gas pump to offer to pump their gas for them or put the nozzle back to complete the transaction. Then, instead of putting the nozzle back on the gas pump to close the transaction, the scammer will continue by pumping the gas into their vehicle.

In some cases, the scammers have also offered to hang the nozzle and then left it active as they proceeded to pump gas for the next customer. In this scenario, the still-active nozzle is used to pump gas for a new customer, where the scammer will request cash for the transaction.

So let’s say that you want $50 worth of gas for your car. The scammer will offer to hang the nozzle for you, and then they may add another $50 worth of gas into their vehicle or the next customer’s, leaving you with a $100 credit card transaction. You may not realize that you were a victim of this scam until you check your credit card balance to find out that your transaction was double the cost.

These scam artists look for victims at the gas station who may be good-natured or appear to be physically weak to offer to pump their gas or to hang the nozzle for them. In some reports, the scammers have been aggressive with the interaction. Some of the suspects have aggressively taken the nozzles from the victims’ hands after they were denied their offer of assistance.

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According to one report, a scam victim allowed a stranger to hang up their gas nozzle for them. The victim didn’t think anything of this interaction until they noticed a $165 charge on their credit card, which was much higher than the amount of gas that they had inserted.

How To Avoid This Scam

While there are different strategies for avoiding scams online, this particular one is unique since it happens in person, and you may be caught completely off guard. Here’s how you can protect yourself from this scam.

Stay Alert When Pumping Gas

It’s natural to zone out, or you may even be tempted to check your phone while pumping your gas. This is a routine activity where you may get lost in thinking about your workday or the errands you need to run. With this scam becoming more common, you must be alert when pumping gas. You should also try to avoid interactions with someone who clearly doesn’t work at the gas station who is trying to get involved in your process. If a stranger approaches you, decline their assistance politely.

Always Collect Your Receipt

Hang up your gas hose and collect your receipt every single time by pressing “End Transaction” to ensure you were only charged for the gas you used to fill up. Even if you’re in a hurry, it’s critical that you close your transaction so that some scammer doesn’t charge you for additional gas. The time it takes to close the transaction is minuscule compared to how much you will have to deal with when it comes to contacting the authorities and your credit card company.

Alert Staff or Police

If someone gets aggressive or confrontational with you at the gas pump, don’t get into it with them. The best strategy is to call for help immediately by notifying the gas station staff or contacting the police so that you don’t get into a physical confrontation. The police have also recommended that if you encounter this scam, you should find a safe area where you can remain on the scene until the authorities arrive.

Closing Thoughts

It’s critical to stay alert at the gas station as this new scam is becoming more common. If someone offers to pump your gas for you, politely decline. If they insist or become confrontational, call for help right away. Always be aware of your surroundings and ensure that you always collect your receipt before you drive off.

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This article originally appeared on New Gas Station Scam: How ‘Pump Switching’ Works and How To Avoid It

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    Alex Harsha
    Alex Harsha

    Alex Harsha is a full-time writer.Before becoming a full-time writer, Alex was a public school teacher. He teaches writing workshops to children and adults. Lives in Connecticut & Works on next novel.

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