Identity Theft at the Gas Pumps?

by: Brenda Mohney

I recently became aware of some disturbing information while stopping at my local convenience store...

Pulling up to the convenience store's gas pumps late one night, I jumped out and pumped ten dollars worth of gas into my car (which gave me a whopping total of three gallons of gas) and proceeded to go inside to pay my bill. Handing over my credit card, I chatted with the clerk who I manage to visit a few times a week since I have an aversion to handing over large sums of money in one sitting to the almighty money-grubbing fuel mongrels. After scanning my credit card, the clerk gave me the receipt to sign and then made the comment that he now had my credit card number.

At this point I gave the clerk a puzzled look, which propelled him to explain his comment. The clerk pointed to my receipt that he handed me and showed me where it displayed the products I purchased, my purchase amount and the total sale. The receipt also showed the type of card I used, my name, my credit card number with the first 12 numbers X'ed out and the last four numbers printed normally, next came my card's expiration date, transaction type, and approval number. The bottom of the receipt showed date and time of my transaction. Viewing this information, I asked him how he could have my credit card number when it wasn't printed out fully on the receipt. This comment brought a triumphant smile to the clerk's face as he dove into his explanation.

The clerk told me that each store is required to print out all the credit card sales for the day and manually add them up to ensure they are correct. The clerk who is given this task will be holed up for hours on end adding up the five-mile long receipt. The clerk stated that the five-mile long store receipt contains each person's complete credit card number but does not contain the cardholder's name on the receipt. The clerk patiently waited for me to ask the obvious question to which I readily complied by asking how he could get my information if my name wasn't included with my credit card number on the store's copy.

The clerk explained how the store's five-mile long copy contained the cardholder's complete credit card number along with the total transaction amount, date and time of the transaction. While this information was not enough by itself to pose much danger, coupled with the copy of my receipt retained by the store would give a person enough ammunition to wreck havoc with my finances.

  • Customer's Receipt:
    • Products purchased
    • Purchase amount
    • Total Sale
    • Type of card
    • Customer's name
    • Customer's credit card number with only the last four digits displayed
    • Credit card expiration date
    • Date and time of purchase
  • Store's Receipt:
    • Customer's complete credit card number
    • Total sale
    • Date and time of purchase

Match up the customer's complete credit card number with the expiration date to the customers name by matching up the date, time, total sale and last four digits of the credit card number and bingo, a person has all the information they need to go on a long-awaited shopping spree.ild identity theft with technology

To make matters worse, the clerk explained that the information is sent to headquarters every few days. Normally, this statement would make most people happy and I was initially relieved to know that my credit card information would not be on display at the store for an indefinite period of time. That is, until I asked how the information was sent to headquarters. At first I assumed that Fed Ex or some other similar transportation service would carry the receipts to headquarters. Upon asking the clerk this question I was informed that the receipts were not sent via a transportation service but instead were carried back to headquarters by the milkman!

Now, I have nothing against the milkman. My family consumes their fair share of milk on a weekly basis and I appreciate the milkman's thoroughness in making sure the store is always stocked up with a fresh supply of milk for my midnight jaunts. But at the same time, I do not think that carrying credit card receipts back to headquarters should be part of the milkman's job description. I mean how safe is our credit card information during the ice-cold trip to headquarters. Are the receipts locked up in a lock-box? Are the receipts thrown in an envelope lying on the passenger seat easily accessible to anyone walking by while the milkman is making trip after trip to the freezer section in the convenience store?

Upon asking these questions, the clerk told me that he wasn't sure how the receipts were transported but he didn't think that they were locked up in a lock-box. I don't know about you, but I find this information cause for concern. I can't help but wonder how safe our credit card information is while it's gallivanting all over town in the milkman's truck? Is the envelope within reach for anyone who happens to be passing by or are they, at the very least, kept out of sight? Are the store receipts included along with the customer's receipts? Or are the customer receipts sent separately to headquarters to ensure some measure of mediocre safety?

Even if the customer receipts are sent separately, and even if the receipts are locked in a lock-box, I am still left to wonder what a company might do with other customer information when they already treat sensitive customer information so frivolously.

This frivolous treatment of customer information is not confined to convenience stores. Upon becoming aware of how my credit card information is treated at my local convenience store, I mentioned my new 'awareness' to a friend who stated that they had previously worked for a popular electronics company that kept customer and store receipts in a filing cabinet in the back room, readily available to any employee who cared to take a peek.

This information, coupled with the vulnerability of our information on the web makes it seem like an insurmountable task to try and protect our information, but there are steps we can take to keep our information safe.

We work very hard to conceal and protect our credit card information and our identities; we should expect no less from the establishments we frequent with our business.

About The Author:
Brenda Mohney - Founder of Identity Theft Security, a site dedicated to providing tools and tips to help people protect their identities. She is also founder of Azure Web Solution, a web development company providing web solutions to small businesses.