Community Voices

Crime Watch: Proposed law targets skimmers who steal credit card info at gas pumps

Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell
Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell

This is news that we in Florida really need.

It’s a step in the right direction and all of us need to contact our legislators to help pass this proposed law.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam H. Putnam has announced the filing of legislation intended to help protect Floridians and visitors from skimmers — devices that steal credit card information at gas pumps —and to provide better tools to combat gas-station fraud. Florida Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, are sponsoring the legislation. (I would like to see it a step further by including ATM machines, another target by criminals. I hear from many visitors how their credit cards were compromised at ATM machines while visiting our state.)

The number of consumers victimized by each skimmer varies between 100 and 5,000, with an average of $1,000 stolen from each victim. Each skimmer represents a $100,000 to $5,000,000 threat to the state of Florida and its consumers.

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.

▪ Increasing the offense level of the crime; which affects the sentencing guidelines.

“We estimate that $1,000 is stolen from each victim of a skimmer, not to mention the immeasurable havoc that identity theft wreaks on people’s lives,” Putnam said. “This legislation will help protect Floridians and their hard-earned money from skimmers at the pump, as well as increase penalties for the crooks perpetrating these crimes.

Here are some great suggestions from Crime Watch partner Kelly Sterling of AT&T:

Nothing will kill the holiday vibe faster than having your accounts or personal data hacked. Unfortunately, the possibility is real. Last year, thieves stole $16 billion from U.S. consumers, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.

But protecting your funds and info is not a complicated process. Here are a few ideas from AT&T you might want to consider to get started:

▪ Only make online purchases from your own phone or computer. Don’t use your work laptop or a friend’s tablet to do your online shopping. Keep your data under your personal control.

▪ When shopping on the Internet, make sure you see a lock icon at the top left of the address bar. It means the page is secure.

▪ Sign up for alerts from your credit card company. You’ll get a text or e-mail very time a big purchase or unusual activity is detected.

▪ Review your statements weekly from November through January. Double check that every purchase is one made by you versus someone else.

Share your travel plans with your card companies. That way they’ll know whether an imposter or you bought out the hotel room mini-bar during vacation.

Consider buying gifts and booking travel plans with mobile wallet tools or smart-chip cards. They are the No. 1 and No. 2 most secure forms of payment.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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