TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In just the past two months, inspectors with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have removed eight credit card skimmers from gas station pumps across the state. These skimmers are used to steal the credit card information from consumers, and the thieves then use the card information to make purchases in someone else’s name. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services works to protect consumers from fraud and scams, and this week, March 1-7, is National Consumer Protection Week.
“Consumers should be aware of potential scams and be careful when they are pumping gas or using their credit cards over the phone or Internet,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.
Here’s what consumers should do to avoid skimmers at gas stations:
- Pay in cash inside the store to ensure the credit card information stays safe.
- Check to make sure the gas pump dispenser cabinet is closed and has not been tampered with. Many stations are now putting a piece of security tape over the cabinet to ensure it has not been opened by unauthorized individuals.
- Try to use a gas pump closer to the front of the store. Thieves often place skimmers at the gas pumps farther away from the store so they aren’t noticed as quickly.
- Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards have better fraud protection, and the money is not deducted immediately from an account.
- If using a debit card at the pump, choose to run it as a credit card instead of a PIN number in. That way, the PIN number is safe.
- Monitor bank accounts regularly to spot any unauthorized charges.
- Consumers who suspect their credit card number has been compromised should report it immediately to authorities and their credit card company.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the state’s clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection and information. The call center is staffed with trained analysts who can respond to questions about programs and regulations under the department’s purview, provide information on a wide variety of topics or direct callers to the appropriate government agency.
Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact the department’s consumer protection and information hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832). For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com