More than 17 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014, and more than 85 percent of those cases involved thieves accessing and using existing accounts. Unfortunately, stealing credit- and debit-card information is all too easy for many criminals.
Nearly a year ago, inspectors with my department began finding skimmers on gas pumps during their routine inspections. A skimmer is a device that steals credit or debit card information when consumers swipe their cards. On average, one skimmer steals financial information from 100 consumers, resulting in $1,000 worth of damage to each victim. We have found more than 180 skimmers over the past year.
When we recognized this alarming trend, we developed a multifaceted approach to crack down on the criminals, who can make off with about $100,000 for each skimmer they place on a pump.
First, we partnered with the Florida Petroleum Council and the Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association to educate the industry about ways they could help protect consumers from skimmers.
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This session, I worked with the Florida Legislature to develop legislation that would require certain security measures, such as security tape over gas pump dispensers, increase enforcement authority against those with fraudulent credit cards and increase sentencing guidelines for crimes related to skimmers. I also appreciate the support for this legislation by the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Police Chiefs Association.
While these measures will help prevent identity theft, skimmers are just one way that criminals prey on consumers. I encourage Floridians to visit FreshFromFlorida.com to learn more about emerging threats to consumers and what they can do to avoid falling victim to identity theft.
Adam H. Putnam, Florida commissioner of agriculture, Tallahassee