Tampa Bay travelers should watch out for skimmers this holiday season

Florida

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As people prepare to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is warning Floridians to be alert at the gas pump.

The Commissioner warns that crooks will be on the prowl and trying to rip off consumers using skimming devices.

“Because these small devices are often undetectable, it’s crucial that the public is aware of how to reduce risk and protect themselves at the pump,” the Commissioner sent in a news release.

Crooks are now using smaller, blue-tooth enabled devices so they can access and steal consumer information remotely.

“During the busy holiday travel season, criminals will be working hard to scam you at the gas pump – it’s crucial that people are aware of exactly what to look out for, because each skimmer can defraud consumers up to a million dollars,” Commissioner Fried said.

Here are five steps consumers can take to avoid fraud by gas pump skimmers:

Take a close look at the pump: Avoid using pumps that are open or unlocked, have had the tamper-evident security tape cut or removed, or otherwise appear unusual. If anything seems cracked, loose, or tampered with, use a different pump. Some newer pumps may also have encrypted credit card readers — look for an illuminated green lock symbol near the credit card reader.

Pay with a credit card: If a credit card number is skimmed, you’re protected by the card issuer’s zero-liability policy — but a stolen debit card number could be far more damaging. If you must use a debit card, choose to use it as credit, instead of selecting debit and entering your PIN. Use a credit card chip reader if it is available.

Pay inside instead of at the pump: It takes just seconds for criminals to place a skimmer in a gas pump — but it’s far less likely that a skimmer has been placed on the payment terminal in front of the clerk inside the gas station or convenience store. Take the few extra minutes to pay inside with cash or a credit card to protect yourself from fraud.

Choose gas pumps closest to the physical building: Don’t use gas pumps out of the attendant’s line of sight, such as those around a corner or behind a building. Thieves placing skimmers are less likely to put them in pumps where the store attendant may catch them in the act.

Check your card statements and sign up for fraud alerts: Nearly every credit card issuer offers fraud alerts, and many will email or text you when your card is used at a gas station. Check your credit card and debit card transactions regularly to make sure no fraudulent activity has occurred. Consumers who suspect their credit card number has been compromised should report it immediately to authorities and their credit card company.

To file a consumer complaint, click here: FloridaConsumerHelp.com or call 1-800-HELP-FLA.

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