By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
December 11, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- More than 500 credit card skimmers were discovered on Florida gas pumps in the first 10 months of 2017, twice as many as the previous two years combined.
Carlos Collins' business partner, the owner of Unity Child Care Development School in Tallahassee, noticed suspicious activity on his company credit card after fueling up his company vans.
"He went to about four Circle K's and went to two Publix's. Then, he went to Golden Corral and apparently had lunch," Collins explained.
In one day, a scammer racked up $3,000, mostly on cartons of cigarettes.
"It was kind of disheartening," Collins continued. "But I was determined that I could not sit back idly and just wait."
Collins was able to acquire surveillance footage from the stores his card was used at and handed it over to law enforcement. Thanks to his leg work, the culprit was arrested just one day later.
Collins' situation is unique. Normally, investigations take months.
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service has estimated a credit card skimmer will steal about 100 people's information before it's discovered, costing each victim an average of $1,000.
Skimmers are designed to be discrete, making them hard to identify.
"They're often pretty good at masking them," said State Attorney Jack Campbell.
New state laws that took affect in July enforce stricter penalties on scammers; they can now be sentenced up to 15 years for offenses. Possession of the devices is also now illegal.
"It's illicit in its own right, which allows us to shut it down before people are compromised," Campbell explained.
Using cards with chips makes it harder for skimmers to steal information. There are even cell phone apps in development which will detect Bluetooth signals the skimmers send out.
Credit card skimmers have been found in 42 counties in the state this year, according to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.