TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House of Representatives passed legislation Friday that will crack down on skimmers in Florida. Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam worked with Senator Anitere Flores and House Majority Leader Dana Young on Senate Bill 912 and House Bill 761, respectively, this legislative session.
A skimmer is a device that steals credit or debit card information when consumers swipe their cards at a pump to pay for gas, and this legislation will better protect consumers from this type of identity theft.
So far, just one such device has been discovered in Washington County.
An inspection conducted last August by the Florida Department of Agriculture revealed one of the devices had been installed on pump 6 of the Express Lane convenience store, located on Jackson Avenue in Chipley.
Since then, no other devices have been found locally.
Just last week, the Department of Agriculture inspected every fuel pump within the Chipley city limits at the request of Chipley Police Chief Kevin Crews and found no concerns.
Washington County Sheriff's Office Chief Investigator Mark Collins also reminds the public that while no additional devices have been found in Washington County, caution should be used everywhere a credit or debit card is used.
"On a national level, one of the biggest things we hear is of skimmers at restaurants, so it's not just gas pumps you need to watch," said Collins. "It's just a good idea to be aware of how your card is being processed."
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has found more than 190 skimmers statewide since the beginning of 2015.
“Protecting consumers from identity theft at gas pumps requires an all-hands-on-deck approach," said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. "I thank Senator Flores, Leader Young, the Senate and the House of Representatives for their support of this key consumer protection legislation."
“Today we scored a victory for consumers at the pump by passing Senate Bill 912 to crack down on the criminals who install skimmers to steal credit card information from honest Floridians," said House Majority Leader Dana Young.
Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association Executive Director Ned Bowman also thanked legislators on behalf of Florida's 10,000 convenience store owners.
“It’s vital that Florida protect both its residents and visitors from having their financial information stolen or compromised and this legislation goes a long way towards ensuring that protection,” said Bowman.
The legislation will help protect consumers from identity theft at gas station pumps and hold the criminal responsible 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.
In addition to routinely checking pumps for skimmers, the department has worked to protect consumers by partnering with the Florida Petroleum Council and the Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association to educate the industry about ways they can help protect consumers from skimmers. The Council and Association have distributed a one-page informational sheet to their 10,000 members with helpful information, such as “what to know,” “how to help,” and “who to call,” in order to engage gas station employees in this consumer protection initiative.
The department regularly inspects Florida’s nearly 8,000 gas stations and analyzes samples of petroleum products to ensure consumers are being offered quality products at a fair measure.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.
Protect yourself from skimmers
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.