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Skim­mers are elec­tronic credit card read­ers that thieves in­sert in­side fuel pumps. Most can’t be seen from the out­side, and the tech­nol­ogy has be­come more so­phis­ti­cated. They’re smaller and can cap­ture the ZIP codes and per­sonal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion numbers con­sumers punch in as well as their ac­count in­for­ma­tion. Some even trans­mit stolen data wire­lessly, so thieves don’t risk get­ting caught re­triev­ing the de­vices. Thieves then cre­ate clones of the con­sumers’ cards. The Florida Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Con­sumer Ser­vices es­ti­mates that on av­er­age, each skim­mer re­sults in 100 coun­ter­feit cards, each of which are used to make $1,000 in fraud­u­lent pur­chases. In other words, a single skim­mer typ­i­cally leads to $100,000 in theft.


Nearly ev­ery state has a law ban­ning the use of skim­mers to fraud­u­lently ob­tain credit card in­for­ma­tion. Some states are in­creas­ing penal­ties for their use or pos­ses­sion. A 2016 Florida law made pos­sess­ing 50 or more coun­ter­feit cards a first­de­gree felony pun­ish­able by up to 30 years in prison,


Pay­ing in cash is the most ef­fec­tive de­fense against skim­mers, ac­cord­ing to the Florida Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Con­sumer Ser­vices. Other tips:

Use a credit card, not a debit card, since credit cards have bet­ter fraud pro­tec­tion, and the money is not de­ducted im­me­di­ately from an ac­count.

If us­ing a debit card at a pump, choose to run it as a credit card rather than punch in a PIN num­ber.

Check to make sure the gas pump dis­penser cabi­net is closed and shows no signs of tam­per­ing.

Choose the pump clos­est to the sta­tion’s clerk. Thieves of­ten place skim­mers at pumps far­ther away from the store.

Mon­i­tor bank and card ac­counts reg­u­larly to spot any unau­tho­rized charges.

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