State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried came to a St. Petersburg Exxon gas station Thursday with a message to drivers: be aware of illegal credit card skimmers at gas pumps, or your wallet might get taken for a ride.
State and local law enforcement officials see a surge in skimmers attached to gas pump credit card swipers. And there's a new high-tech wrinkle: Police in Clearwater and St. Petersburg this week found a Bluetooth device that allowed someone to remotely steal credit card numbers and passwords. With nearly half a million pumps in Florida, Fried says thieves have ample opportunity to take advantage of motorists.
"The criminals are getting crafty. And they're getting smart," she said. "So we just need to stay even more vigilant. We are working with local law enforcement, statewide inspectors and statewide intelligence to find out where these criminal rings are located, and start breaking them up."
Ed Hair, an inspector with the State Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services joined Fried at the St. Petersburg Exxon. He said some gas pumps need only simple keys to open.
"A lot of pumps - like this key right here," he said, waving a tiny key, "believe it or not, this key right here is the same one that opens up the tool box in my truck. So it depends on the types of pumps they have."
State inspectors say motorists should look to see if the blue seals on pumps are broken. Or look for devices that are attached to credit card swipers. Drivers also should use credit cards instead of debit cards for easier refunds.