Florida lawmakers want future skimmer, identity fraud task force to have public records exemption

Bills in House, Senate would prevent criminal intelligence, techniques from being disclosed under Florida public records law

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – State Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil filed legislation earlier this year that would give a yet-to-be-created state task force dedicated to combating credit card skimmers and identity fraud exemption from Florida’s public records law, including when criminal intelligence information and techniques are discussed at meetings.

Goff-Marcil, who represents parts of Central Florida, including Maitland, filed House Bill 749 on Nov. 22. State Sen. Randolph Bracy, (D-Orange County) filed an identical bill in the Senate. The legislation would create the Public Records and Public Meeting exemption for the Fraud, Identity Theft, Skimmer Advisory Task Force.

“I’m trying to introduce a bill that would provide a public records exemptions where the task force can perform their job,” she said. “They can’t perform their job if everyone knows what they are doing to outsmart the criminals.”

However, before the task force can receive a protected status, it needs to be created.

During the last legislative session, Department of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried worked with lawmakers to file bipartisan legislation that would establish the Consumer Fraud, Identity Theft, and Skimmer Working Group statewide interagency task force.

Senate Bill 1652 and House Bill 1239 did not pass during the legislative session.

Fried is again leading the effort to establish that task force this legislative session with lawmakers. Legislation to create the task force has not yet been filed in the House or Senate.

[These tips can help you avoid credit card skimmers]

Goff-Marcil was in Altamonte Springs on Tuesday with Division of Consumer Services investigators looking for possible skimmers at gas pumps.

“The credit card companies are paying a ton of money trying to remedy this and that all comes back to the consumer, that fraud,” Goff-Marcil said.

Joe Scobbo, with Division of Consumer Services, showed News 6 how the criminals insert the skimmer devices into the credit card readers, making them virtually undetectable unless the card reader is pulled out.

"The chances of a consumer finding those and seeing them are slim and none,” Scobbo said.

When investigators find the skimmers, they dust them for fingers prints and follow other methods to try and find the people behind the devices, Scobbo said.

Goff-Marcil’s bill would give the Fraud, Identity Theft, Skimmer Advisory Task Force -- if created --a protected status, including being exempt from public records requirements when investigative law enforcement agency tactics are discussed at task force meetings.

House Bill 749 would make “all criminal intelligence information, investigative information, and surveillance techniques, procedures, or personnel, and any other information held by a law enforcement agency” obtained by the task force exempt from Florida’s public records law.

“Otherwise, sensitive law enforcement information and personal information of victims of financial crimes would be disclosed, and open communication and coordination among the parties involved in the advisory task force would be hampered,” the bill reads.

The House bill is currently in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee. If the accompanying bills are approved by both House and Senate committees, which would send the bill to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature, the protected status for the task force would go into effect in July 2020.