After topping off your tank at area gas stations, there's a chance thieves could be filling up their pockets with cash from your credit card.

Recent cases of credit-card skimming have prompted the UCF Police Department to issue campus-wide precautions.

"There has been some activity in our area and we wanted to make sure that students have the tools to identify a card pump that looks suspicious and also take action, should they be a victim of credit-card skimming," said Courtney Gilmartin, public information officer for UCFPD.

UCFPD issued an email statement last Wednesday warning students to be vigilant in protecting their financial information from credit-card skimming at gas pumps.

This has been a growing trend in the area.

"Credit-card skimming is a process of basically stealing people's credit card information and banking information, so it's particularly common at gas pumps and at ATMs," Gilmartin said.

The information can quickly and discreetly be used without the cardholder even knowing.

"Once they get the data, they can clone the card or sell the information," Gilmartin said. "It's a quick and easy way to get a lot of personal banking information."

Thieves rig a small skimming device on the machine, allowing them to save the card's financial information, according to the email.

There are several things to look out for when paying at the pump.

"If there are any loose wires or anything that is kind of dangling with the credit-card slot, that should be a huge red flag," Gilmartin said. "If, for any reason, your credit-card slot looks unusual, that should alert your suspicion."

Should someone find his or herself a victim of credit-card skimming or is even concerned that a gas pump or ATM looks suspicious, he or she should notify both the police and his or her bank, Gilmartin said.

"One thing that I think is actually important is for people to monitor their banking activity … you know, a lot of us have our bank account online now, and within a few clicks we can see all of our recent activity," Gilmartin said. "If things come up that look suspicious [and] you know that you didn't actually spend money on something you were charged for, bring that to your bank's attention."

This tip is echoed by Timothy Bell, the branch manager for the CFE Federal Credit Union at UCF.

He said card skimming is a smaller part of the ongoing identity-theft issue.

"The most important thing for students, or anyone in general actually, is [to] be mindful of who you are giving your information to," Bell said.

UCFPD and Bell recommended using the credit-card feature when paying with a debit card at a gas pump. This prevents you from having to enter your PIN.

Bell also said it is safer, when buying gas, to pay with your card at the counter inside or to just pay with cash.

"If you're worried about the gas station you're using your card at, the safest way to do things is either pay in cash inside or just pay inside at the register in there, because [while] the machines outside have that vulnerability of being compromised, the inside machine is always monitored by the employees," Bell said.

Patrick Williams, a member-service representative for the UCF CFE Federal Credit Union, recommended using a credit card in place of a debit card for certain expenditures.

This minimizes the effect that card skimming can have on the cardholder.

"Your debit card, too, is directly connected to your checking account, which, if you have overdraft protection, is directly connected to your savings account. So they can wipe out your savings and your checking account. With a credit card they're very limited to what they can wipe out on there," Williams said. "Nowadays people can just take a capture of your debit card and that's all they need, just the front and back side."

Identity theft is an ongoing battle, Bell said, but there are many precautions one can take to prevent it.

Both Bell and Gilmartin point out the need for the cardholder to be vigilant in looking out for anything suspicious at ATMs or gas pumps.

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