TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – More than 500 credit card skimmers were discovered on Florida gas pumps in the first 10 months of this year, which is twice as many as in the previous two years combined.
Carlos Collins, who owns Unity Child Care Development School in Tallahassee, was out with his business partner when the partner noticed suspicious activity on his company card.
This was after fueling up Collins’s company vans.
“So, (a man) went to about four Circle Ks and he went to two Publix,” Collins said. “Then, he went to Golden Corral and apparently had lunch.”
In one day, the scammer racked up $3,000, mostly on cartons of cigarettes, Collins said.
“It was kind of disheartening, but I was determined that I could not sit back idly and just wait,” Collins said.
He said he was able to acquire surveillance footage from the stores where his card was used, and then he handed over the videos to law enforcement officials. Thanks to Collins’s leg work, the culprit was arrested just one day later, he said.
“He had a bunch of skimming equipment and things of that nature,” Collins said.
His situation is unique. Normally, these types of investigations take months.
Officials with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service estimated a skimmer will steal about 100 people’s information before it’s discovered, costing victims an average of $1,000.
Skimmers are designed to be discreet, making them hard to identify.
“(The criminals are) often pretty good at masking them,” said Jack Campbell, a state attorney for the 2nd Judicial Circuit.
New state laws that took effect in July are meant to help law enforcement officials catch scammers.
These scammers now can be sentenced to up to 15 years for offenses. Also, possession of the skimmer devices is now illegal.
“It's illicit in its own right, which allows us to shut it down before people are compromised,” Campbell said.
Using cards with chips makes it harder for skimmers to steal your information. There are even cellphone apps in development that will detect Bluetooth signals the skimmers send out.
Credit card skimmers have been found in 42 counties in the state this year, according to officials with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.