Inspector shares best defense against skimming devices at gas stations

Map shows where skimmers were found in your neighborhood

ORLANDO, Fla. – In Orange County, petroleum inspector Rob Edwards is sometimes all that stands between a driver and a skimming device.

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“If you know what you are looking for, it just jumps out at you,” Edwards told News 6 investigator Merris Badcock during a recent holiday sweep.

(Scroll down to see which pumps were hit this year in your neighborhood.)

“This particular style of skimmer? I can put this thing in here in 15 seconds,” Edwards says, holding up a tiny green chip, smaller than a business card. “I can get in. I can get out. That is all it takes for a thief to do what he has to do in this location.”

Edwards and his fellow Orange County inspectors, who are employed by the Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), are pushing to hit 168 gas stations in three days. The effort has one goal in mind: to protect consumers during the holidays.

“Everyone is out shopping. They are spending money. They are burning fuel. This is the time when the thieves are going to be out there in force,” said Edwards.

When News 6 caught up with Edwards, he and his colleagues had already recovered at least eight skimmers, including one Bluetooth skimmer. Sweeps like this contribute to the roughly 180 skimming devices found in our nine-county coverage area so far this year.

But the crime continues to plague gas stations even when sweeps and security measures are in place. News 6 analyzed the most recent state data available from FDACS. We found roughly 83 percent of skimmers found statewide by investigators were installed at pumps that had security measures in place.

“Tape is not fool-proof, because thieves have the tape,” said Edwards. “Encryption is your best defense.”

Edwards is talking about encrypted credit card readers: newer technology on newer pumps. He shared a way consumers can tell just by looking at it.

“I can’t say this is 100 percent true, but 90 percent of the time if you insert your card horizontally [into a pump], chances are, that is [an] encrypted [card reader].

“If your card is being inserted vertically, that is old technology.”

Use the map below to find out which local gas stations were hit in your neighborhood. If you cannot see the map, click here.

Keep in mind, when a gas station is hit with skimmers, this often means attendants are coming up with new security measures. It does not necessarily mean the pumps there are unsafe, just that skimmers have been recovered from these pumps.

About the Author:

Award-winning investigative reporter Merris Badcock joined the News 6 team in October 2020. Merris is the recipient of a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, a Suncoast Regional Emmy Award, four Suncoast Emmy Regional nominations, and two first-place Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists’ Awards.