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.
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:
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.