TAMPA, Fla. - Skimming devices are an ongoing problem in Florida and law enforcement says it appears to be getting worse.
Crooks use them to steal credit card information while customers are at the pump, and then they fraudulently spend the money elsewhere.
Skimmers are small electronic devices illegally installed on gas pump card readers and state officials have been sounding the alarm for years.
Division of Consumer Services inspector Joe Scobbo explained how criminals easily install the devices.
“Four bolts, they take this out, stick this in, put it all back together you’re done in about a minute and a half, two minutes,” he said.
Police say the devices they used to see the devices being attached to the outside of card readers, but as technology advances, the devices become more high-tech and even harder to spot.
“These are normally Bluetooth so someone could sit in the parking lot get all of the information as you put your card in, and they’re taking it and making up cards,” Scobbo said.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs inspects gas pumps across the state, checking for tampering and skimmers.
From 2015 through September of this year, the agency has removed 4,715 devices. The numbers are increasing each year, starting at 169 in 2015 and jumping to 1,544 in 2019.
“So it’s important to make sure that we’re telling our consumers exactly what to look for at a gas station pump, because every skimmer is a value of $1 million in fraud to the consumer,” said Department of Agriculture commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried.
In the first nine months of this year, nearly 247 skimmers have been removed from pumps in the Tampa Bay region. Half of them were found in just two months, August and September.
That is a 22% increase in skimmers compared to this same time last year.
“There’s a lot of fraud and a lot of criminals out there,” Fried said.
Officials say there are ways to lower your risk of fraud while fueling up: park at the pumps closest to the attendants, pay inside, or use a credit card, and avoid using pumps that are open or where something looks out of place.