2 card skimmers at Mayport gas station among 1,200 found in past year

Florida inspectors report significant increase in number of skimmers found

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – More than 1,200 credit card skimmers were removed from Florida gas stations over the past year, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced Wednesday, the same day Atlantic Beach police said state inspectors found skimmers on two pumps at a local station this week.

The skimmers were found Monday at the BP station on Mayport Road. State inspectors said 131 skimmers were discovered across Florida last month.

The state says use of the illegal devices, which collect consumers’ credit or debit card information, has increased dramatically in recent years. If undetected, each skimmer is capable of collecting data from hundreds of consumers while stealing millions of dollars. 

WATCH: Card skimmers found at Atlantic Beach gas station

An employee at a gas station in Jacksonville Beach told News4Jax that crooks have placed scammers on one of its pumps at night.

Dave Willson, who drives a tow truck, avoids using a card when buying gas.

"I pay cash," Wilson said. "Don’t got to worry about it.  If I buy something online with a credit card, I go get a prepaid card. That way I know what I got and no way they can steal from me."

Using cash is one of several tips consumer advocates give drivers to avoid becoming a victim. If paying with a card, they suggest using credit cards, which typically have more consumer protections than debit cards, along with choosing pumps closest to the actual store. 

During a news conference Wednesday at a gas station in Tallahassee, Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried said she’s been personally affected by the issue, which started in South Florida but has spread statewide.

“It’s an inconvenience to consumers. It is something that is taking money out of consumers’ pockets," Fried said. "I know that personally. I have had my credit cards shut down three times because of something like this down in South Florida. It’s something we all need to be working together to solve.” 

Fried said many credit card skimming machines are part of much larger organized crime rings in the state.

Bills filed for the 2019 legislative session, which began this week, could toughen penalties for those caught skimming credit card data. 

According to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, here are five suggested ways to avoid credit card fraud by gas pump skimmers:

  • Take a close look at the pump: Avoid using pumps that are open or unlocked, have had the tamper-evident security tape cut or removed, or otherwise appear unusual. Some newer pumps may also have encrypted credit card readers. Look for an illuminated green lock symbol near the credit card reader.
  • Use a credit card, not a debit card: If a credit card number is skimmed, you’re protected by the card issuer’s zero-liability policy, but a stolen debit card number could be far more damaging. If you must use a debit card, choose to use it as credit, instead of selecting debit and entering your PIN.
  • Pay inside, with cash or credit, instead of at the pump: It takes just seconds for criminals to place a skimmer in a gas pump, but it’s far less likely that a fraudster has placed a skimmer on the payment terminal in front of the clerk inside the gas station or convenience store.
  • Choose gas pumps closest to a physical building: Don’t use gas pumps out of the attendant’s line of sight, such as those around a corner or behind a building.
  • Check your card statements and sign up for fraud alerts: Nearly every credit card issuer offers fraud alerts, and many will email or text you when your card is used at a gas station. Check your credit card and debit card transactions frequently to make sure no fraudulent activity has occurred.
  • When in doubt, consumers should contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. All consumer complaints will be investigated. To file a consumer complaint, visit FloridaConsumerHelp.com or call 1-800-HELP-FLA.

    There are bills filed for this year’s legislative session to toughen penalties on people caught skimming credit cards.

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