How to Avoid Gas Station Pump Switching Scam

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November 19, 2023
Edward Smith

Understanding ‘Pump Switching’ and How to Safeguard Yourself

In a world where financial scams continue to evolve, it’s essential to remain vigilant and informed. One emerging scam that has gained notoriety is the “pump switching” scheme, which targets unsuspecting gas station customers.

What Is the ‘Pump Switching’ Scam?

The “pump switching” scam has become so prevalent that law enforcement issued a public service alert to raise awareness. This deceptive ploy explicitly targets individuals who use credit cards to pay for the fuel at the pump. Here’s how the scam unfolds:

  • Approach and Offer of Assistance: Scammers approach customers at the gas pump and offer to assist them by either pumping the gas or returning the nozzle to complete the transaction.
  • Deceptive Actions: Instead of legitimately completing the transaction, the scammer continues to pump gas into their own vehicle, effectively charging the victim’s credit card for additional fuel.
  • Leaving the Nozzle Active: Scammers sometimes offer to hang the nozzle back but leave it active, allowing them to pump gas for the next unsuspecting customer. They then request cash for the transaction.

For instance, if you intend to purchase $50 worth of gas for your car, the scammer may offer to hang the nozzle. However, they could slyly add another $50 worth of gas into their vehicle or the next customer’s, resulting in a $100 credit card charge. Victims often don’t realize they’ve been scammed until they check their credit card statements and find their transaction was double the intended amount.

These scammers typically target individuals who appear approachable or physically weaker, making them more likely to accept assistance. In some cases, scammers have adopted aggressive tactics, forcefully taking the nozzle from the victim’s hand when their offer of help is declined.

How to Protect Yourself from the ‘Pump Switching’ Scam

Since this scam occurs in person and can catch you off guard, it’s crucial to take preventive measures to safeguard yourself from falling victim to it. Here are some tips to help you stay protected:

  • Stay Alert While Pumping Gas: It’s easy to become distracted, perhaps by checking your phone or getting lost in thought. However, maintaining awareness is vital with the “pump switching” scam on the rise. Avoid engaging with individuals who do not work at the gas station and attempt to insert themselves into your refueling process. Politely decline any offers of assistance from strangers.
  • Always Collect Your Receipt: After filling up your vehicle, hang up the gas hose and collect your receipt. Press the “End Transaction” button to ensure you are only charged for the gas you’ve used. Even if you’re in a hurry, taking this extra moment to close your transaction can prevent potential overcharges and save you the hassle of dealing with authorities and your credit card company later.
  • Alert Gas Station Staff or the Police: If someone becomes confrontational or aggressive at the gas pump, avoid engaging with them physically. Instead, call for assistance immediately by notifying gas station staff or contacting the police. Authorities recommend that if you encounter this scam, you should find a safe area to stay until law enforcement arrives.

Watch the news report from ABC7 below about the growing “pump switching” scam at gas stations.

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Northern California Personal Injury Lawyer. Our law firm is dedicated to helping injured individuals obtain the compensation they rightfully deserve for their damages. Our experienced injury attorneys are here to provide guidance, support, and expert representation throughout the process. We understand the challenges you may be facing, and we are committed to pursuing justice on your behalf. To discuss your case and explore your options, contact us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for a free consultation. Your rights matter, and we are here to fight for them.

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