State leaders want to toughen penalties for gas pump skimmers

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State leaders want to strengthen laws to combat gas pump skimmers by increasing the penalty for those caught with stolen credit card numbers.

"We're going to do everything we can to protect consumers at the gas pump. That's our job and we take it very seriously," Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said.

In front of a gas pump at the Sunoco on U.S. Highway 301, Putnam joined Republican House Majority Leader Dana Young, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Winter Park Police Chief Brett Railer and Ned Bowman, executive director of the Florida petroleum marketers and convenience store association to highlight legislation authored by Representative Young.

"We are going to set out this year to make the punishment fit the crime, and that is to make this much more serious," Rep. Young of Tampa said.

Right now, the crime of having ten fraudulently obtained credit or debit card numbers is a second degree felony. The proposed bill drops that number to five, and it could go lower than that.

 "Hopefully with this legislation we'll raise the penalty so much that it'll be a deterrent effect on the criminals," Putnam said.

The proposal also makes it mandatory for gas stations to enclose gas pumps with security tape; a measure designed to protect financial information.

In November alone, the Department of Agriculture found six additional skimmers in the bay area bringing the total to more than 170 found statewide since March.

State Senator Anitere Flores and Representative Dana Young are sponsoring legislation in the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives, respectively. The proposed legislation protects consumers from identity theft at gas station pumps 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 the sentencing guidelines.