STUART, Fla. — In just a few weeks, agents with Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) recovered more than 250 skimmers at gas stations across Florida.
The crime trend does not show any signs of slowing down. From 2015 to 2017, the number of skimmers found across the state nearly tripled.
From 2017 to 2018, Contact 5 found the total number of skimmers collected statewide increased again, this time by 27.6 percent.
Contact 5’s Crime Investigator Merris Badcock found a driver using a pump at a Citgo station on S. Federal Highway and S. Colorado Ave. in Stuart where a skimmer was recently found.
"It makes me want to pull out and leave," the driver said.
He continued to pump his gas, but mentioned that despite numerous skimming stories, he had not thought to check the pump.
"I don’t know where to check. I just know my truck needs gas right now," the driver said.
The sweep is part of an ongoing initiative by FDACS to help protect consumers from credit and debit card fraud. Despite their efforts, the number of recovered skimmers is only climbing.
According to data provided by FDACS, agents have recovered 74 skimmers in from Treasure Coast and Palm Beach County gas stations so far in 2019. That is up from the 60 skimmers collected in the area during the same time last year.
"That doesn’t surprise me at all," said Sgt. Brian Bossio with the Stuart Police Department. "Crimes regarding fraud, fraudulent activity, credit cards, the elderly, they are all on the rise."
If you’re going to pay at the pump, Sgt. Bossio says you need to check the pump every single time.
“"Look for any obvious signs on the pump. Has it been tampered with? Look for that security tape," said Sgt. Bossio.
However, Sgt. Bassio says even that is not fool proof.
"[Thieves] can just replace the tape, so it looks like it has not been tampered with," said Sgt. Bossio.
"I probably should have went inside and paid cash," a driver at a previously compromised pump told Contact 5.
But even Sgt. Bossio sympathizes with that.
"Fool proof way? Pay cash. It is guaranteed they cannot burn you. But who wants to use cash these days? Nobody," said Sgt. Bossio.
Drivers can prepay, but if you must pay at the pump, "Use the pump closest to the cashier," Sgt. Bossio said.
Additionally, use a credit card. It is easier to challenge if fraudulent charges hit your account.
Gas station managers in Stuart say they change locks on the pumps after a skimmer is found.
Contact 5 found that in the last year and half, FDACS agents found multiple skimmers at 33 percent of all Florida gas stations targeted by thieves.
Recently, agents found seven skimmers at two different gas stations in Orlando, six simmers at two different gas stations in Broward County, and four skimmers at one gas station in Wellington.
🔽 Use the map below to find out where skimmers have been recovered from gas stations in Florida 🔽