Florida Cracks Down on Skimmers

Florida has long held the dubious honor of being ones of the states with the highest amount of identity theft crime, for a variety of reasons.

The large demographic of senior citizens means potential victims who might not be up on the latest technology-based scams, and the high tourist population each year means a lot of people who are paying by credit card and may be less likely to notice fraudulent charges until it’s too late. The large numbers of resorts throughout the state even helps scammers, since employees at these tourist destinations may move around seasonally; therefore, having a lot of short-term addresses doesn’t raise as many suspicions when applying for a line of credit.

But lawmakers in Florida aren’t throwing in the towel on identity theft crimes. In fact, new legislation that was introduced last year and will go into effect in October is aimed at stopping one type of identity theft where almost all tourists and citizens alike have to go: the gas pump.

Skimming is nothing new. With a little bit of know-how and literally a few seconds of effort, thieves can tamper with a credit card payment system by inserting a thin film into the “swiper” part of the machine. This film “skims” the information off your credit card and sends it via a tiny cable to a small receiver. Self-serve gas pumps are prime locations for skimmers since the receiver and cable can be hidden inside the pump’s panel. From the outside, nothing appears out of the ordinary.

What is new, though, is Florida’s efforts to stop it. Along with requiring a visible tamper-evident tape at gas pumps to let consumers see if the panel has been opened, the law recategorizes this type of crime so that the sentencing can be harsher. It also allows for the unauthorized possession of credit card information to be a criminal offense; some other states have had to rewrite their laws to cover possessing stolen information, since actually using it was the only crime.

Just since 2015, officials in Florida have found more than 200 skimmers installed illegally in gas pumps throughout the state, with the highest number of skimmers located in the southern part of the state. In order to protect yourself from the threat of a tampered card reader, security experts recommend looking for the protective tape that shows the pump’s panel has been inspected and not tampered with, and when in doubt, pay inside the gas station instead of at the pump.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

 

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