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Industry Reacts To Skyrocketing Skimmer Reports

The number of gas pump credit card skimmers appears to be soaring, but an industry spokesman insists better awareness is partly to blame.

Skimmers are devices thieves slip into gas pump cabinets to steal credit and debit card data. State figures show the more than 300 skimmers reported by mid-July represents a 160 percent increase over last year.

But Florida Retail Federation spokesman James Miller says it’s important to put the figures in perspective.

“We’re the third most populist state in the nation, we have more than 100 million tourists come into this state every year, and we have more than 10 thousand convenience stores statewide. So that’s a significant number of opportunities for skimming devices to be used.”

Lawmakers increased penalties for credit card fraud last year and required station owners to seal pumps with security tape. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services polices pump fraud and conducts routine inspections.

Department investigators say a single skimmer can strip data from 100 credit or debit cards. Miller says customers should inspect pumps for tampering before filling up and use credit instead of debit cards.

“One thing to keep in mind also is pumps farthest away from the convenience stores are also the ones most susceptible to skimmers because they are away from that high traffic of the store.”

Miller says retailers will lobby for even tougher penalties if the trend continues.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.