Make us your home page
Instagram

Illegal credit card skimmer use on the rise at Florida gas stations

Credit card skimmers are increasingly being found in Florida gas stations. | [Times file photo]

Credit card skimmers are increasingly being found in Florida gas stations. | [Times file photo]

BY MALENA CAROLLO

Protecting your pin while paying for gas at the pump may not be enough to keep your card's information safe. State inspectors have found more credit card skimmers in the first seven months of this year — 276 — than during all of 2016 — 219.

"Identity theft is the last thing Floridians and visitors want to deal with while traveling," Adam H. Putnam, commissioner of agriculture, said in a release. "An educated consumer is the best defense."

Credit card skimmers are small devices, some the size of a matchbox, that are placed in the dispensers and collect card information. This can include debit card pin numbers. Thieves can then make purchases with the cards' stolen details.

Some have wireless connectivity, which allows the criminals to siphon off the collected information via Bluetooth.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Police: Credit card skimmer found at one St. Petersburg gas station

On average, each skimmer found contained about 100 credit card numbers, and an average of $1,000 is stolen using each card. That means the take from one skimmer can amount to $100,000, Aaron Keller, press secretary for the agriculture department, told the Palm Beach Post.

"We are finding more because we are getting better at detecting them. Law enforcement is partnering with us. There is an increased effort to find skimmers," Keller said.

Detecting the skimmers is a multi-agency effort. Local law enforcement agencies look for the devices, while the Florida Department of Agriculture does its own checks.

Here's how the crime works: Thieves start with a universal gasoline pump key that unlocks the majority of the nation's gas pumps. Then, they install the device inside the pump's cabinet.

From that device, the data of cards used at the pump can be downloaded and later sold on the internet. Or, with a $359 card embosser and some blank magnetic cards, fraudulent cards can be made using the stolen numbers.

And it's not just one or two individuals committing this type of crime. The state agriculture department said it is likely that organized crime runs such operations. And the stolen card information is often used to steal gas.

According to Brian Krebs, a cybersecurity expert, the criminals clone the cards and use them to purchase gas at multiple fuel stations. The fuel is placed in gas "bladders" — hidden in hollowed-out trucks and vans — and transported to a giant tanker truck.

Then, Krebs said, the criminals sell and deliver the gas at cut-rate prices to shady and complicit fuel station owners.

Times wires were used in this report. Contact Malena Carollo at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo on Twitter.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's office recommends several ways consumers can protect themselves against skimmers:

• Avoid cards altogether and pay for gas with cash.

• If you do pay with a card, either use a credit card or run your debit card as credit to avoid putting your pin number in.

• Stick to pumps in front of the store. Skimmers are often placed on pumps farther away from a gas attendant's line of sight.

• Keep an eye on your accounts to make sure there isn't any unauthorized activity.

Illegal credit card skimmer use on the rise at Florida gas stations 07/04/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 5, 2017 12:38am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: Tampa Bay household income tops $50,000 but still makes us look poor

    Personal Finance

    The good news is Tampa Bay's median household income finally crawled above $50,000 last year. The bad news is that figure — officially $51,115 by new U.S. Census Bureau data — still puts the Tampa Bay region as the poorest of the nation's 25 largest metro areas.

    Tampa Bay still has the lowest median household income among the 25 most populous metro areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
[Times]
  2. Make-A-Wish Foundation aims to help more kids in Tampa Bay

    Health

    The Make-A-Wish Foundation is on the lookout for sick children in the Tampa Bay area who need a once-in-a-lifetime pick-me-up.

    Grace Savage, a 10-year-old girl with a chromosomal disorder made a trek to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium last year, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The foundation intends to beef up its presence in the Tampa Bay area after a reorganization. The region is now the responsibility of the foundation's Southern Florida chapter, one of the most active in the country, with more than 11,000 wishes granted so far. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times ]
  3. Florida hides details in nursing home reports. Federal agencies don't.

    Medicine

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott widened his offensive Thursday against the Broward nursing home he blames for the deaths of 10 residents by setting up a tip line for information, but when it comes to access to the inspection reports of all nursing homes, the governor's administration has heavily censored what the …

    In the foreground is a document detailing the findings of a Feb. 2016 inspection at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills obtained from a federal agency, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Behind it is the state?€™s version of the same document, from the Agency for Health Care Administration, showing how it has been redacted before being released to the public. [Miami Herald]
  4. 'Toxic' times: How repeal of Florida's tax on services reverberates, 30 years later

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before Hurricane Irma attacked Florida, the state faced a troubled fiscal future that the storm will only make worse.

    Robertson says the tax debate is now “toxic.”
  5. Fewer Tampa Bay homeowners are underwater on their mortgages

    Real Estate

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages continues to drop. In the second quarter of this year, 10.2 percent of borrowers had negative equity compared to nearly 15 percent in the same period a year ago, CoreLogic reported Thursday. Nationally, 5.4 percent of all mortgaged homes were …

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages  continues to drop. [Times file photo]