A Look at Serious Consumer Fraud Issue Hitting Florida
One of the biggest consumer fraud issues that has emerged in states like Florida involves the use of skimmers, which are electronic credit card readers that thieves put into fuel pumps. Once inside, they can capture personal information such as identification numbers, account information, and zip codes when the customer punches them in at the fuel station. Sometimes they even transmit this stolen information wirelessly.
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, each skimmer results in 100 counterfeit cards, each of which makes around $1,000 in fraudulent purchases; in other words, one skimmer leads to approximately $100,000 in theft.
The Law in Florida
Florida, like other states, has a law banning the use of skimmers to steal credit card information. It is a third degree felony for a person to use a skimming device to access information encoded on a payment card with the intent to defraud someone. Gas stations in Florida must also have devices on pumps to combat skimmers; at a minimum, the use of security tape.
When merchants fail to protect consumers from thieves who gain unauthorized access to customers’ debit and credit card information, litigation can be brought under the Stored Communications Act (SCA) and/or the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (in addition to claims of negligence, breach of implied contract, and negligence per se). SCA claims require that the merchant provides the underlying services that transport consumer credit and debit card data and/or that it provides off-site computer storage and/or processing services. Under state consumer laws, merchants can be found liable if they communicate any deceptive misrepresentation and/or fail to implement security requirements to thwart skimmers.
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself from skimmers; steps such as:
- Paying with cash instead of cards when you can;
- Using a credit card instead of a debit card, as credit cards tend to have better fraud protection (and money isn’t automatically deducted from your account);
- If you have no choice but to use a debit card at the pump, use it as a credit card instead of punching in your PIN number;
- Checking to make sure the gas pump dispenser cabinet is closed and there aren’t any signs of tampering; and
- Monitoring your bank and credit reports frequently. Also note that thieves tend to place skimmers on pumps that are furthest away from the station’s clerk.
Experienced Commercial Litigation & Consumer Protection Attorneys
Lavalle, Brown & Ronan, P.A. has a combined record of over 130 years of protecting consumers in Boca Raton and surrounding areas in Florida. Our commercial litigation attorneys are well-versed in the federal and state commercial laws which protect you from illegal and unfair practices. In addition to pursuing your claim, we can also work with you in convincing the Florida Bureau of Insurance Fraud to investigate the alleged acts. Contact our team of experienced attorneys today for a free consultation and let us help you with next steps.