Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam is providing simple tips this Memorial Day weekend to help Floridians and visitors avoid skimmers, devices that are placed on gas pumps to steal consumers’ debit and credit card information. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has found and removed 185 skimmers so far this year.
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.
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.
Commissioner 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.