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Is It Necessary to Press the 'Clear' Button After Paying at the Gas Pump?

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Forwarded email advises service station customers to press the 'clear' button after using a debit or credit card at the gas pump so subsequent users won't be able to 'piggyback' charges on their accounts.

Description: Email rumor
Circulating since: May 2008
Status: False

Example #1:
Email contributed by Yvonne H., June 2, 2008:

Fwd: FW: Be sure to hit the 'CLEAR' Button

This may be helpful to all!

This has happened to me but it was more extreme. I was at the Cowboys/Kangaroo gas station on Tallapoosa . My account was hit inaccess of 24 times @ $45.00 a pop! Needless to say I haven't been there since then. My bank shut down my account and another account had to be opened.

Jim just told me about something that happened to one of his coworkers. She used her credit/debit card to purchase gas at the pump (like most of us do). She received her receipt like normal. However, when she checked her statement, there were 2 $50 charges added in addition to her purchase. Upon investigation, she found out that because she did not press the 'clear' button on the pump, the employee inside the store was able to use her card to purchase his/her own gas! To keep this from happening, after you get your receipt, you must press the 'CLEAR' button or your information will be stored until the next customer inserts their card. Be sure to tell all your friends/family so that this doesn't happen to them!



Example #2:
Email contributed by Sharon L., July 20, 2008:

Subject: Press Clear Alert

SENDING TO ALL. I NEVER PRESS CLEAR AT THE GAS PUMP BUT SURE WILL FROM NOW ON -- BECAUSE THE BAD GUYS THINK OF EVERY POSSIBLE WAY TO GET US!

Subject: Alert from the Neighborhood Watch of Colorado Springs Police Department

Most of us use credit/debit cards at the gas pump. With the price of gas and people getting desperate, this is likely to occur more often. Please be careful out there!

A co-worker used her credit/debit card to purchase gas at the pump (like most of us do). She received her receipt like normal. However, when she checked her statement, there were 2 $50 charges added in addition to her purchase. Upon investigation, she found out that because she did not press the 'clear' button on the pump, the employee inside the store was able to use her card to purchase his/her own gas! To keep this from happening, after you get your receipt, you must press the'CLEAR' button or your information will be stored until the next customer inserts their card. Be sure to tell all your friends/family so that this doesn't happen to them!

Officer Dave Gilman
Crime Prevention Officer
Colorado Springs Police Department
Stetson Hills Division
719-444-3168



Analysis: If this were true you'd be hearing about it on the evening news or in your daily newspaper, not finding out about it in a breathless, forwarded email. What's more, these machines get so much use that if "piggybacking" were really as easy as described above, service station customers would be doing it, accidentally or not, all the time. There would be a loud public outcry about it, not an email whimper.

The card processing equipment on modern gas pumps works the same as that found at ATMs and grocery store check-out stands. Once the charge has gone through, the transaction is complete. Period.

Colorado Springs police officer Dave Gilman, whose signature line appears at the bottom of one variant of the message, admits sending the message but told KRDO-TV News that the information is incomplete. "The first couple of lines were telling people that those pumps are very rare and hard to find," he said. A company that manufactures the equipment explained that such a thing could have happened with "first-generation models," but few people nowadays could expect to encounter the outdated machines.

Another source, Waite Park, Minnesota community service officer Alicia Mages, says customers probably should make use of the "clear" button if they swipe their cards then change their minds about pumping gas. "In checking with a local station,” she told Newsleaders.com, "they indicated your card information clears after you fill your vehicle. However, if you put your card in and decide to use a different pump, or leave the station, you do need to press clear or cancel to clear your information out of the pump."


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Sources and further reading:

Fueling Urban Gas Station Fraud Myths
Denver Post, 8 September 2008

Credit Card Fraud Alert
Press release, Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, 11 July 2008

Warning About Paying at the Pump
KRDO-TV News, 3 July 2008

Supposed Warning at the Gas Pump
KJRH-TV News, 28 July 2008

Police Warn Residents of Fraudulent Charges, Scams
Newsleaders.com, 31 July 2008


Last updated: 02/24/11

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