You hear about skimmers at ATM's, gas pumps, and even inside convenient stores. These devices can steal personal information with one swipe when you pump to pay for gas. But why is this scam on a rise?
The technique is so tempting because in a short period of time, skimmers can collect a ton of information in a short amount of time, and in the same day the device could be then used at another location.
John Benkert never thought he would be a target for gas skimmers. "I was ticked off because I knew exactly what was happening."
John says a local gas station didn't accept his American Express, so he used his debit card. When he checked his bank statement, he saw a charge for $300 more than he knew he paid for at the pump. Then other mysterious charges started showing up. "As I 'm sitting there, literally another charge for $286 pops up in front of my eyes."
By the time the bank shut down his card, charges totaled close to $2,000.
A skimmer is designed to hide in plain sight to blend in. It usually has a magnetic reader so once you slide your card through, your credit card data gets put on a little chip inside the skimmer.
"Think of the volume of people that go through a gas station. It's a very short transaction, but its volume of transactions, so they're a good target." Cyber security expert Greg Scasny tells Four in Your Corner that crooks will use the information to make counterfeit credit cards, sell your number on the dark web, or attempt to make online purchases.
But these numbers are only good until your bank detects fraudulent activity. "They have to be able to get those numbers, get them quickly, use them, and then get rid of them. They're still valuable. You can do a lot of damage in a couple hours."
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, nearly 100 people are victimized by each skimmer. On average $1,000 is stolen from each person. That's an estimated $100,000 threat to consumers.
And it doesn't take a criminal mastermind to do this. In less than 10 minutes online, Fox 4 found pages of skimming devices for sale online for only a couple hundred dollars.
"It's one of those things that no matter what we do from a technology perspective, bad guys will figure out a way around it. It's not a technology problem, it's more of a people problem."
This people problem is growing in the state. In the last year, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has found more than 200 skimmers at Florida pumps: 8 pumps in Lee County, 2 in Sarasota County, and 1 in Charlotte County.
Those numbers only include skimmers the department has uncovered and removed. It doesn't include other skimmers that may have been found by local law enforcement agencies who inspect gas pumps for skimmers throughout the year.
There's nothing illegal about buying a skimmer. They're a popular device among business owners who use them to make legal transactions.
So if the state can't stop skimmer sales, what can convenience store owners do stop crooks from using them on pumps? We took that question to a local gas station owner.
"I don't know if there's any safe haven for your identity or your credit anywhere." Chuck Bono tells Four in Your Corner that he's seen officers check the pumps, but fears scammers are already one step ahead. "These new things they're putting on are to protect the consumer, but for how long before someone hacks it who knows. They seem to hack everything they always do anyway."