Credit card skimmer crooks beware! The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office has doubled down during the Summer travel season with a countywide initiative to crack down on credit card skimming devices installed at gas stations. 

If you’re coming to Hernando County this Summer to steal credit card information you’ll be getting a tall glass of ice-cold justice instead.

This morning, detectives with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office Economic Crimes Unit, assisted by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, conducted a county-wide Fuel Pump Skimmer Sweep.

During this operation, all 63 of Hernando County’s retail fueling stations were checked for the presence of fuel pump skimmers. At the conclusion of the operation, ZERO skimming devices were located.

How big is the problem across the State?

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently completed a statewide skimmer sweep, with 259 skimmers found across the state in recent weeks, 15 of those in the Orlando area alone. More than 2,800 skimmers have been found in Florida since 2015.

The last countywide sweep was conducted in November of 2018 with two skimming devices found at the Citgo station at 9020 Cobb Rd, Brooksville.

Florida has the highest fraud rate per capita in the entire nation, with $84 million lost to fraud in 2018, about $400 lost per person. Florida consumers filed 15 percent of the 1.4 million fraud reports to the FTC in 2018, while accounting for only 6.5 percent of the population, according to recent numbers published at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website.

Tips to protect yourself:

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.

Consumers who suspect that a gas pump has been tampered with should contact the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office at 352-754-6830. Make sure and notify the gas station manager and file a complaint with FDACS. You can file a complaint online or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832).

Background 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.

Source: Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

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