The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness has issued an alert about how you pay for gasoline at service stations.

According to Homeland Security Director Jared Maples, drivers are being advised to use a credit card or cash at a gas station not their debit card.

He pointed out many gas stations still don’t have chip readers and rely on machines that read a card’s magnetic stripe to process a payment.

“That can be dangerous with a debit card because it’s directly tied to your bank account and a lot of consumer protections are not in place on the debit card that they are with a credit card," Maples explained.

“Any time that you’re not using the chip, the protections are not encrypted with those swipes when you swipe the card. Credit and cash are highly recommended when doing transactions at gas stations.

He stressed if you use a debit card magnetic stripe at a gas station, there is a serious potential for problems because data from the stripe is sent unencrypted and therefore readable to the gas station’s network where it can be stolen.

“It is recommended for all gas station customers to use cash or credit cards. There’s often more consumer protection for credit versus debit cards at gas pumps, until they are outfitted with the chip card readers.”

Gas station operators have until October of this year to install chip card readers. If they do not, the liability for theft will shift to them for any payment of card fraud.

Another problem is when cyber-crooks plant malware “skimmers” in card readers, which allows them to get personal information when a debit card is used.

“They would have direct access to your bank account and could pull out a lot more money and it would be very difficult to recover that money," Maples said.

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