Agriculture commissioner needs your help combating skimming

Commissioner Nikki Fried: 'It's a consumer being vigilant ... then reporting it'

By Lauren Verno - Consumer investigative reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - In the last few months, at least 10 banks and 16 gas stations in the Jacksonville area were compromised with skimmers. 

Florida's Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried agreed the problem is not going away anytime soon. 

"It’s a consumer being vigilant. It’s a consumer understanding. This stuff is happening and consumers need to be aware of the situation. Then (they need to) report it," Fried said.

Fried told News4Jax that the top three scams plaguing Northeast Florida continue to be landlord-tenant issues, bad travel agents and skimmers. 

“We found 22 of them in our gas stations, every single skimmer is $1 million of fraud on a consumer," she said. 

Fried offered advice to consumers:

“If you can pay with cash, if can’t use your credit card inside cause then you know obviously the machine inside has not been tampered with, but if you are going to use the pump. Try to use the ones closer to the convenience store so you know that there’s more eyes on that area. Make sure when you’re looking at the machine itself there’s no tampering.”

The one piece of advice Fried could not emphasize enough during the one-on-one interview with News4Jax,  if you are a victim, you need to report it.  

“Once things are reported coming into our office, we can start the investigation -- see how the technology has advanced, how we get ahead of the curb," Fried said.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried

The commissioner went into detail about how her office plans to get ahead of the scammers.

“I mean even a couple weeks ago, we were down in South Florida and we were taking apart one of the skimmers at one of the pumps and we were coming up with all new creative ideas," Fried said. "By putting in actual video cameras inside the machines, so if somebody opens up the machine we can be alerted immediately and have those people on cameras.”

That means consumers need to know what they’re looking for. 

“There’s typically a sticker that goes over where the keyholes are -- make sure that hasn’t been tampered with. Take a look into the actual machine itself and make sure there’s nothing else in there," Fried explained. "Don’t use debit cards. Debit cards don’t have fraud alerts."

Fried stressed no matter how little a crime may seem, it is crucial that it’s reported not just to local authorities, but to the commissioner’s office, as well. 

If you suspect a gas pump has been tampered with, you can file a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or visiting the department's website.

Click here to learn more about card skimmers and how to protect yourself. 

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