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Crackdown on gas pump card skimmers leads to discovery of 259 devices statewide

259 gas pump card skimmers found statewide

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(Photo from Atlantic Beach Police Dept.)

Florida officials have taken hundreds of gas station card skimmers off the streets in the past few weeks.

State Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nicole Fried revealed Saturday that her department had recently completed a statewide sweep.

Inspectors found 259 devices across Florida. More than 2,800 skimmers have been found in the state since 2015.

"Florida is known for beaches, oranges, [and] Disney, but also fraud," said Fried. "We are the top state for scams, and we can't let that continue."

Two bills were filed during the most recent state legislative session to crack down on skimmers. Neither of them passed during this year's session.

Fried said she plans to see the bills filed again next year. She also emphasized the importance of being vigilant. "A big part of that fraud is happening at the gas pump. It's important we're sharing with consumers exactly what to look for, because each skimmer can defraud consumers up to $1 million."

According to Commissioner Fried and the Department, here are five tips for consumers 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. 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 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.