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Bills would protect Florida consumers from credit card skimmers, data thieves

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Bills that would require gas stations to protect customers from credit card skimmers and increase criminal penalties for data thieves were filed Thursday.

The bills were announced by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose department is responsible for inspecting pumps at the state’s 8,000 gas stations. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services inspectors have found 150 credit card skimmers, small devices that capture the credit or debit card information of consumers, in the past year.

“We estimate that $1,000 is stolen from each victim of a skimmer, not to mention the immeasurable havoc that identity theft wreaks on people’s lives,” Putnam said. “This legislation will help protect Floridians and their hard-earned money from skimmers at the pump, as well as increase penalties for the crooks perpetrating these crimes.”

A single skimmer can capture the financial information of up to 5,000 individuals before it’s discovered, giving each skimmer the potential for up to $5 million in theft from consumers. The proposed legislation requires gas stations to, at a minimum, seal the gas pumps with security tape to prevent skimmer installation. If a station doesn’t comply, DACS will be able shut down the fuel pumps.

The legislation will also increase the penalty for credit card thieves from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony, which can carry a prison sentence up to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000. Fraudsters could be charged with the crime for stealing just five credit card numbers, rather than the 10 required for a felony charge under current law.

On Thursday Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores introduced the Senate version, SB 912; Tampa Republican Rep. Dana Young will introduce the House version of the bill.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

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