Florida Tackles Gas-Pump Skimmers

New legislation establishes task force to solve growing issue
Photograph: Shutterstock

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida suffers from the highest fraud rate per capita in the nation, and much of that is happening at the gas pump in the form of skimming devices. Now policymakers are championing bipartisan legislation that would form a state task force to develop a solution to the problem.

Skimming devices first started appearing in Florida in 2015. Since then, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Bureau of Standards has removed 2,400 skimmers found during its annual inspection of 464,000 gas pumps at 19,000 gas stations, truckstops and marinas.

Each skimmer can result in up to $1 million in fraudulent credit-card charges, according to the bureau. The skimmers range from simple devices that attach to internal wiring to hardware that transmits stolen credit-card data via Bluetooth or text messaging.

During the recent National Consumer Protection Week, Nicole Fried, commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, highlighted the problem of skimmers with an on-site inspection at a local gas station. She also discussed Senate Bill 1652 and House Bill 1239, which would create a state Consumer Fraud, Identity Theft and Skimmer Working Group. The interagency task force would develop solutions to stop skimmers, and include members appointed by state cabinet officials, as well as legislators, industry groups, credit-card companies, consumer advocates and fraud victims themselves.

“To criminals, let me be clear—if you install these illegal skimmers on gas pumps in Florida, we will investigate, you will be caught, and you will be prosecuted,” Fried said. “Our department's law-enforcement professionals are working hard to thwart these criminals every day, our inspectors are checking thousands of gas pumps daily for these devices, and our new task force will bring our state's best together to attack this problem head-on.”

“Florida has one of the highest rates of credit-card fraud in America, and we take very seriously our responsibility to investigate and help stop that activity,” said Lt. Colonel Williamson, assistant director of the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement.

“Working closely with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Office of Statewide Intelligence and other law enforcement entities, we're focused on not only shutting down the crime rings installing these devices, but also the associated crimes of credit-card fraud, fuel theft and unlawful fuel conveyance, and other illegal profit chains," Williamson said. "Because to our investigative efforts, we are continually developing intelligence to share with our local, state, and federal partners to strategically identify and combat this type of criminal activity.”

As of press time, the House and Senate task force bills were at different stages of subcommittee review.

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