A single gas pump skimmer can cost consumers tens of thousands of dollars, potentially stealing the information of about 100 people before they are discovered.
The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office on Monday removed a gas pump skimmer at the Circle K at 3509 SW Williston Road – another instance in a growing trend where the skimmers are becoming increasingly prevalent in gas stations throughout the area.
“It seems like this year has really been a bad year for us finding skimmers,” said Art Forgey, a spokesperson for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.
Since the beginning of last year, Forgey said his department has found about 15 to 20 skimmers in Alachua County, with instances this year accounting for eight to 12 of those cases. These are in addition to what was found by the Department of Agriculture.
Gas pump skimmers record consumers’ credit or debit card information when payment is processed on card readers. People who placed the gas pump skimmers can then take the information by connecting manually to the skimmer or accessing it via Bluetooth.
About 100 people are victimized by one skimmer, resulting in about $1,000 stolen from each victim. On average, each skimmer can be a $100,000 threat to consumers, according to a Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services press release from March 2016. With about 200 gas pump skimmers found throughout the state by department inspectors since the beginning of 2015, the cost to consumers can be tens of millions of dollars each year.
Local law enforcement agencies find gas pump skimmers, too, though Florida’s commissioner of agriculture’s office does not keep data on devices found by other agencies, suggesting that the number – and the impact on consumers – is much higher.
“They seem to be concentrated at gas stations along the interstate, typically where motorists would come off the interstate and there would be a lot of credit card transactions,” Forgey said.
In talking to other agencies about the devices, Forgey has noticed an increase in the number of skimmers, especially in counties that have interstates which cut through them, he said.
In addition to Interstate 75, Forgey listed Interstate 95 on Florida’s east coast and Interstate 10, which stretches from Jacksonville to the Florida-Alabama border.
Beyond the proximity to interstates, Florida Department of Agriculture spokesperson Aaron Keller said there is a greater prevalence of skimmers in more urban areas like Miami, Orlando and Tampa, but the department does see them in more rural areas as well.
Consumers can watch out for themselves when pumping gas, with Keller recommending paying with one’s card inside or with cash.
Additionally, Keller recommended using gas pumps closer to the station’s main entrance, as the department’s inspectors find more skimmers placed in pumps on the outer ends of the row of pumps, away from the view of station employees.