Be alert for scammers & skimmers as eyes remain on tropics

By Lauren Verno - Consumer investigative reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As the tropics remain active, it's important to keep your guard up and watch out for scammers and skimmers.

Nikki Fried, the commissioner of agriculture and consumer service, said one of the biggest issues in Northeast Florida is at the gas pumps.

“Every single skimmer is $1 million of fraud on a consumer,” Fried said.

After Hurricane Dorian, 22 skimmers were found at gas pumps around Florida.

According to the state, skimmers were found at Sam's Discount Food Mart on Timuquana Road in Jacksonville and at Pat's Discount Citgo on U.S. Highway 1 in St. Augustine. In both cases, the state said security measures had been in place and security tape had been properly placed on the pumps. A "correction notice" was issued at Sam's Discount Food Mart.

Commissioner Fried’s recommendation is if you can’t use cash, take extra precautions.

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

Another common scam during storm season is price gouging.  

There were 2,994 allegations of price gouging reported to Florida officials during the state of emergency declared for Hurricane Dorian. More than 80% of those reports concerned the price of fuel or water. 

Duval County accounted for 85 of the price gouging reports, according to Kylie Mason, press secretary for the Attorney General's Office.

Florida statute describe price gouging as when "the amount charged grossly exceeds the average price at which the same or similar commodity was readily obtainable in the trade area during 30 days immediately prior to a declaration of a state emergency."

“Our job before and during the storm was to prevent price gouging so Floridians could afford the essential commodities they needed,” Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement.

Moody announced a new app called NO SCAM for consumers to report alleged price gouging during a state of emergency.

Report price gouging by calling (866) 9NO-SCAM or by downloading the NO SCAM app.

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