Ahead of projected record-breaking travel this Memorial Day weekend, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam is giving Floridians and visitors seven simple tips to avoid identity-stealing card skimmers placed on gas pumps. Since 2015, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has found and removed more than 230 skimmers, devices that illegally capture consumers’ credit or debit card information, from gas pumps across Florida.
“Identity theft is the last thing Floridians and visitors want to deal with while traveling this Memorial Day weekend,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “An educated consumer is the best defense, and I encourage travelers to follow these simple tips to avoid skimmers this Memorial Day weekend.”
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. Each skimmer represents a $100,000 threat to the state of Florida and its consumers.
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. 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 skimmer 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 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.
Commissioner Putnam also worked with the Florida Legislature this year to change Florida law to better protect consumers from identity theft at gas 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).