by Leifert & Leifert , Florida-based law firm with practice areas in criminal defense and family law.
Over the years, many people have replaced paying with cash with paying by credit or debit card. The convenience of not having to worry if you have enough money on you and just swiping that card to pay for your purchase is one of the appealing things about using cards. But one serious downside to using cards for purchases is the ever-increasing risk that thieves will gain access to your information. One of the most common ways this happens is by skimmers that would-be thieves use to collect card data. And Florida is experiencing an alarming increase in the number of incidents taking place, especially at gas pumps.
According to state tracking, as of July 18, there were already 315 skimmers that were discovered at gas pumps throughout the state. Last year at this time, that number was 120. The number of skimmers found this year has already surpassed last year’s total of 219. In 2015, there were only 169 found for the entire year.
The counties that have had the most number of gas pump skimmers found are:
- Palm Beach County: 58
- Broward County: 57
- Miami-Dade County: 26
- Pinellas County: 12
- Volusia County: 12
The skimmers are typically placed inside gas pump cabinets. Each skimmer can collect card data for 100 customers. The average amount each customer loses to this type of electronic debt is $1,000. Steps have been taken to help combat this theft, including requiring security tape alerting to possible pump tampering and required security devices on the pumps, as well as stiffer penalties for those convicted of electronic theft. It is now a crime in Florida for just possessing credit card skimming equipment.
The problem, law enforcement officials say, is that those involved in this illegal activity have become more and more sophisticated at working around safeguards that are put in place to guard against skimming. For example, new pumps are being made that automatically shuts down the pump if the cabinet door is opened illegally. But some offenders have developed ways to install the skimmers remotely and gathering credit and debit card data that way.