Proposal could protect you at the pump

State legislation aims to increase penalties for fraud committed at gas pumps


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced a new statewide push Monday to cut down on skimmers that are stealing credit card numbers at gas pumps.

Skimmers are tiny, hard-to-spot devices that criminals attach to credit card readers, primarily at gas pumps, because they’re hard to monitor. If customers swipe their cards at a pump with a skimmer, the device secretly steals their information, giving the thieves access to it.

“I think it’s really bad,” gas station customer Jena Hughes said. “People can access your credit card.  That’s why I only use cash when I come to gas stations and stuff.”

Putnam highlighted proposed legislation Monday, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores and Rep. Dana Young, to protect consumers from identity theft at gas pumps. The legislation would:

  • Require self-service fuel dispensers to use certain security measures to prevent theft of consumer financial information
  • Increase enforcement authority against those who possess or traffic fraudulent credit cards
  • Reclassify the crime of unlawful conveyance of fuel, which would increase the maximum sentence
  • Increase the offense level of the crime, which would affect the sentencing guidelines.

The vast majority of gas pumps at the nearly 8,000 gas stations in Florida are free of credit card skimmers, but more and more have popped up in recent years.

Six have been found since November in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. The Florida Department of Agriculture said it has found 166 devices at pumps since March 2015.

Putnam said each skimmer can victimize between 100 and 5,000 customers and each victim can see an average of $1,000 stolen.

“It takes an all-hands-on-deck approach to protect consumers from financial crimes occurring at gas pumps in Florida,” Putnam said in a statement.

But even with the proposed legislation, many people said Monday that they’ll still be cautious at the pump.

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