Gas pump skimmer fraud on the rise

Posted on May 13, 2019 by Staff reports

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried on May 9 participated in a gas pump skimmer inspection in Miramar to highlight the growing risk of gas pump skimmer fraud across the state.

Over the past two weeks, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has found 156 skimmers in gas pumps throughout the state, marking 588 total skimmers found just five months into 2019. The data shows that 2019 could surpass 2018 and be the year with the most skimmers found to date.

“Florida is known for beaches, oranges, Disney, but also fraud — we are the top state for scams, we can’t let that continue,” declared Fried. “Gas pump skimmers are a huge part of that fraud, they’re a problem growing across our state. That’s why I want to do more — I’m committed to protecting your pocketbooks and will get more aggressive against these criminals. Our Department is working every day, focused on protecting the consumer rights and interests, and economic security of all Floridians.”

This past legislative session, Commissioner Fried worked with lawmakers on bills to develop solutions and take action against the serious and growing problem of skimmers.  Unfortunately, the bills did not pass during the legislative session.

“I worked with lawmakers to file bipartisan legislation to bring stakeholders together and identify solutions. The goal was to take action on the growing gas pump skimmer problem that has been costing Floridians millions — regrettably the bills did not make it through,” shared Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Next session, we will be filing these bills again and continue pushing for more solutions and aggressive action against gas pump fraud.”

Florida has the highest fraud rate per capita in the entire nation, with $84 million lost to fraud in 2018, which is about $400 lost per person, per Fried’s office, which offered the following tips to avoid skimmers:

  • Take a close look at the pump: Avoid using pumps that are open or unlocked, have had the tamper-evident security tape cut or removed, or otherwise appear unusual. Some newer pumps may also have encrypted credit card readers – look for an illuminated green lock symbol near the credit card reader.
  • Use a credit card – not a debit card: If a credit card number is skimmed, you’re protected by the card issuer’s zero-liability policy – but a stolen debit card number could be far more damaging. If you must use a debit card, choose to use it as credit, instead of selecting debit and entering your PIN.
  • Pay inside, with cash or credit, instead of at the pump: It takes just seconds for criminals to place a skimmer in a gas pump – but it’s far less likely that a fraudster placed a skimmer on the payment terminal in front of the clerk inside the gas station or convenience store.
  • Choose gas pumps closest to a physical building: Don’t use gas pumps out of the attendant’s line of sight, such as those around a corner or behind a building.
  • Check your card statements and sign up for fraud alerts: Nearly every credit card issuer offers fraud alerts, and many will email or text you when your card is used at a gas station. Check your credit card and debit card transactions frequently to make sure no fraudulent activity has occurred.
  • When in doubt, consumers should contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – all consumer complaints will be investigated. To file a consumer complaint, visit com or call 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (in Spanish).

Background Information on Gas Pump Skimmers:

Skimmers – small electronic devices illegally installed inside gas pumps – first began to appear in Florida in 2015 and have grown exponentially since. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Bureau of Standards inspects 464,000 gas pumps at 19,000 gas stations, truck stops, and marinas each year, and has removed over 2,800 skimmers since 2015. The Bureau also inspects pumps for safety and accuracy.

Skimmers can be undetectable to consumers because of their location inside gas pumps, and have a potential for $1 million in fraudulent credit card charges per skimmer. They range from simple devices that clamp onto internal wiring that criminals must later retrieve, to sophisticated devices that deliver stolen credit card data via Bluetooth and automated text messaging.

Skimmers seized since 2015:

2015: 169

2016: 219

2017: 656

2018: 1,206

2019: 561 (January 1 – May 8)