WATCH: Florida Ag Commissioner Highlights Risk of Gas Pump Skimmer Fraud in Central Florida
By Space Coast Daily // June 9, 2019
Florida has the highest fraud rate per capita in the entire nation
ABOVE VIDEO: Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried participated in a gas pump skimmer inspection to highlight the growing risk of gas pump skimmer fraud in Central Florida.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services participated in a gas pump skimmer inspection to highlight the growing risk of gas pump skimmer fraud in Central Florida.
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently completed a statewide skimmer sweep, with 259 skimmers found across the state in recent weeks, 15 of those in the Orlando area alone. More than 2,800 skimmers have been found in Florida since 2015.
Joined by Inspector Joe Scobbo of the Division of Consumer Services, Commissioner Fried stressed the urgent need for stronger consumer protections.
“Florida is known for beaches, oranges, Disney, but also fraud — we are the top state for scams, and we can’t let that continue,” said Commissioner Nikki Fried.
“Since my election, I’ve made fighting consumer fraud and consumer protection top priorities in my agenda – and 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 a million dollars. We’re here to let Floridians know there’s a lot of fraud out there, but we’re working with law enforcement to crack down on this criminal activity.”
This past legislative session, Commissioner Fried worked with lawmakers on legislation to address the growing problem of skimmers.
Senate Bill 1652 and House Bill 1239 were common-sense, bipartisan bills to establish the Consumer Fraud, Identity Theft, and Skimmer Working Group statewide interagency task force — unfortunately, the bills did not pass during this year’s session. Fried intends to see the legislation filed again next year.
Florida has the highest fraud rate per capita in the entire nation, with $84 million lost to fraud in 2018, about $400 lost per person.
Florida consumers filed 15% of the 1.4 million fraud reports to the FTC in 2018, while accounting for only 6.5% of the population.
With Central Florida as an important hub during the summer travel season, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services wants to raise awareness of how consumers can protect themselves at the pump.
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 – but 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.
When in doubt, consumers should contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – all consumer complaints will be investigated. To file a consumer complaint, visit FloridaConsumerHelp.com or call 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (in Spanish).
Background on Gas Pump Skimmers:
Skimmers – small electronic devices illegally installed inside gas pumps – first began to appear in Florida in 2015 and have grown exponentially since.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Bureau of Standards inspects 464,000 gas pumps at 19,000 gas stations, truck stops, and marinas each year, and has removed over 2,800 skimmers since 2015. The Bureau also inspects pumps for safety and accuracy.
Skimmers can be undetectable to consumers because of their location inside gas pumps and have a potential for $1 million in fraudulent credit card charges per skimmer.
They range from simple devices that clamp onto internal wiring that criminals must later retrieve, to sophisticated devices that deliver stolen credit card data via Bluetooth and automated text messaging.
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