Worried about credit/debit card skimmers? Here’s what to do.

Skimmers such as this one found at a Florida gas station are used to steal credit and debit card info.

As motorists fill up their vehicles’ tanks for Memorial Day travel, they’re reminded that skimmers could be lurking at the pump.

So far this year, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has found and removed 185 skimmers. Thieves place the  devices  on gas pumps to steal consumers’ debit and credit card information.

 The number of consumers victimized by each skimmer is estimated to be about 100 per device, with an average of $1,000 stolen from each victim, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Friday.

Travelers can take the following steps to avoid skimmers at gas stations:

  • Pay in cash inside the store to ensure credit card information stays safe.
  • Check to make sure the gas pump dispenser cabinet is closed and has not been tampered with.
  • Use a gas pump closer to the front of the store. Thieves often place skimmers at the gas pumps farther away from the store.
  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards have better fraud protection, and the money is not deducted immediately from an account.
  • If using a debit card at the pump, choose to run it as a credit card instead of putting a PIN number in. That way, the PIN number is safe.
  • Monitor bank accounts regularly to spot any unauthorized charges.
  • Consumers who suspect their credit card number has been compromised should report it immediately to authorities and their credit card company.

Putnam worked with the Florida Legislature last year to change Florida law to better protect consumers from identity theft at gas station pumps by:

  • Requiring self-service fuel dispensers to use certain security measures to prevent theft of consumer financial information;
  • Increasing enforcement authority against those who possess or traffic fraudulent credit cards;
  • Reclassifying the crime of unlawful conveyance of fuel, which increases the maximum sentence; and
  • Increasing the offense level of the crime, which affects sentencing guidelines.

Consumers who suspect that a gas pump has been tampered with should contact the gas station manager, local law enforcement or the department’s consumer protection and information hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832).

The department regularly inspects gas stations and analyzes samples of petroleum products to ensure consumers are being offered quality products at a fair measure. For more information, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.

 

 

 

Find out where latest skimmers were detected in Palm Beach County

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it found two gasoline pump skimmers within the last week in Palm Beach County. They were both discovered in West Palm Beach at:

  • 7-Eleven Inc., 3035 N Military Trail, West Palm Beach
  • Texaco/Sunshine #37, 2274 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach

The skimmers were found as part of a statewide sweep of gasoline stations in popular spring break destinations. In our area, inspectors probed pumps at 51 service stations, finding the two skimmers in that search.

Getting gas at the Shell station at 5980 Okeechobee Blvd in West Palm Beach, Florida, April 13, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Getting gas at the Shell station at 5980 Okeechobee Blvd in West Palm Beach, Florida, April 13, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Across Florida, state officials said they inspected 500 gasoline stations in the targeted markets, yielding a total of eight skimmers.

The state estimates that for each skimmer undetected, as many as 100 consumers can have their credit card information stolen — leading to an average of $1,000 worth of fraudulent transactions.

“From Okaloosa County to Miami-Dade County, these skimmers are being placed on gas pumps and stealing from unsuspecting residents and visitors,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “We will continue to crackdown on these devices – and the criminals responsible for them.”

Since early 2015, the department said it has detected more than 430 skimmers across the Sunshine State. The areas inspected in this sweep, the number of facilities inspected and numbers of skimmers found are as follows:

  • Panama City Beach/ Panhandle –77 facilities, 0 skimmers found
  • Orlando area – 128 facilities, 0 skimmers found
  • Clearwater / St. Pete Beach – 66 facilities, 4 skimmers found
  • One Stop, Giant BP #109, 6151 4th St N, St. Petersburg
  • One Food of Pinellas Inc. #23, 901 4th St N, St. Petersburg
  • Quick Mart of Largo, 1990 West BAY Dr., Largo (2 skimmers)
  • Ft. Myers Beach – 36 facilities, 0 skimmers found
  • Daytona Beach/ Cocoa Beach/ Flagler Beach/ New Smyrna Beach – 75 facilities, 1 skimmer found
  • Sunoco Food Mart, 5625 N Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach
  • West Palm Beach – 51 facilities, 2 skimmers found
  • Mobil/7-Eleven Inc., 3035 N Military Trail, West Palm Beach
  • Texaco/Sunshine #37, 2274 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach
  • Ft. Lauderdale – 25 facilities, 1 skimmer found
  • Valero, 1 N Federal Hwy, Pompano Beach
  • Miami – 21 facilities, 0 skimmers found

 

State officials issued these steps they say consumers should follow to protect themselves:

  • Pay in cash inside the store to ensure the credit card information stays safe.
  • Check to make sure the gas pump dispenser cabinet is closed and has not been tampered with. Many stations are now putting a piece of security tape over the cabinet to ensure it has not been opened by unauthorized individuals.
  • Use a gas pump closer to the front of the store. Thieves often place skimmers at the gas pumps farther away from the store so they are not noticed as quickly.
  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards have better fraud protection, and the money is not deducted immediately from an account.
  • If using a debit card at the pump, choose to run it as a credit card instead of a debit card. That way, the PIN number is safe.
  • Monitor bank accounts regularly to spot any unauthorized charges.
  • Consumers who suspect their credit card number has been compromised should report it immediately to authorities and their credit card company.

 

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.

How to avoid gas pump credit card skimmers as you travel this weekend

There are a lot of dangers on the road this Fourth of July weekend — this is one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, and officials are warning drivers to be cautious.

But Florida’s agriculture commissioner, Adam Putnam, is warning travelers to watch for a danger at the gas pump: devices called skimmers that could potentially steal your credit or debit card information.

John Garrity of Loxahatchee Electronics Corporation says consumers should look for a sticker indicating a security system installation on gas pumps.  (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
John Garrity of Loxahatchee Electronics Corporation says consumers should look for a sticker indicating a security system installation on gas pumps. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

In a news release, Putnam said the skimmers “are the last thing (travelers) want to deal with” this weekend.

» MAP: Where were skimmers found in Florida last year?

Putnam said in the news release that in a little over a year, his Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has found and removed more than 250 skimmers from Florida gas station pumps.

Each skimmer is estimated to grab the information of about 100 customers, with about $1,000 stolen on average from each person — meaning each skimmer could rake in $100,000.

» RELATED: How scammers use skimmers to steal your credit card at the pump

Here are Putnam’s tips to avoid skimmers:

• Pay inside the gas station in cash.

• Check the gas pump cabinet to make sure it’s closed and that it hasn’t been tampered with. Look for security tape or a sticker, and see if it looks peeled or broken.

• Use a pump closer to the front of the store. Putnam said skimmers often are placed at pumps farther away from where clerks can easily see someone tamper with them.

• Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Most credit cards have better protection against most types of fraud, Putnam said. Plus, debit cards immediately withdraw money from your account. If you do use a debit card, choose to run it as a credit card so you don’t have to enter your PIN.

If you think your credit card number may have been stolen or otherwise compromised, report it to your credit card company.

If you believe you may have found a skimmer, contact the gas station manager, local law enforcement or the department’s consumer protection and information hotline at 800-435-7352.

Gas pump skimmer bill signed into law; requires stations to have security features

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a bill designed to protect consumers from “skimmers” at gas station pumps.

(Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
(Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam made the bill cracking down on skimmers — devices used to steal credit card information — one of his top priorities in the legislative session, as his office has worked to eradicate on the use of skimmers in Florida.

» RELATED: How scammers use skimmers to steal your credit card information

The bill, SB 912, was one of 14 signed into law by Scott on Friday. It goes into effect Oct. 1, and requires gas stations to have security devices on pumps to combat skimmers, while also stiffening penalties on credit card fraud.

State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, sponsored the measure.

» MAP: Where skimmers were found in Florida last year

How the bill seeks to protect consumers from ID theft at the pump:

• Requiring self-service fuel dispensers to use certain security measures to prevent theft of consumer financial information. The Senate bill calls for at a minimum, the placement of security tape over the panel opening that leads to the scanning device.

• Increasing enforcement authority against those who either possess or traffic in fraudulent credit cards.

• Reclassifying the crime of unlawful conveyance of fuel, which increases the maximum sentence.

• Increasing the offense level of the crime, which affects the sentencing guidelines.