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Albert M. Quirantes | Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Office

Stiffer Punishments for Credit Card Skimmers in Florida

There has been a recent outbreak of thieves stealing credit card information at ATMs and gas stations in Florida prompting legislators to toughen up on penalties associated with this kind of theft. You may not even notice it when you gas up or put your credit card into an ATM machine, your card information may be invisibly hacked!

As a kneejerk reaction, Adam Putnam, Commissioner of Agriculture and Dana Young, Majority Leader for the Republicans have joined a coalition of state officials who want to change the classification of the crime for the unlawful conveyance of fuel. This would increase the crime’s offense level so that the maximum sentence could be increased. The thieves have been using credit card information, much of which has been obtained through skimming devices installed in gas station pump cabinets and have used this information to buy large amounts of fuel, which is then re-sold on the black market.

At present, if an individual is found in possession of 10 or more credit cards that are fraudulent the crime is considered to be a 2nd degree felony. The proposed legislation will drop this limit to 5 credit cards. This does not really solve the problem of credit card skimmers who actually don’t physically handle stolen credit cards, but only the information. It’s typical of politicians to react to a problem in criminal law by just raising the penalties, mandating minimum sanctions and restricting what the judges and prosecutors who have to deal with these cases on a day to day basis can do. These stricter laws seldom come with budgetary increases for more jails, more jailers and higher funding for the court system and its employees. Neither are they accompanied by a decrease in crime.

In fact, in recent years it has become apparent that thieves have become better at camouflaging skimmers which are able to steal credit card data when the credit card is swiped in an ATM machine. Earlier devices were easy to uncover as the thief had to remove the skimming device in order to get the information so it would not have taken too much detective work to locate the criminals. Nowadays with the rise of Bluetooth devices and identification devices that work through radio-frequencies the thief can fit the skimmer and get credit card info without the need to remove the device from its position from by the gas pump. So why make it so easy for the thieves by allowing people to gas up automatically by just sliding a card into an unmonitored machine just to subject the information to being stolen?

Law enforcers are having particular difficulty in finding these thieves. In a state wide sweep earlier this year of 6,000 gas stations, 81 of them were found to have gas pump skimmers. No one knows who is exactly behind this ever increasing credit card information theft. The concern is that a busy gas station could be releasing hundreds of credit card details via these skimmers every day. This is creating an escalation of victims.

The Department of Agriculture has estimated that up to 5,000 consumers have on average $1,000 stolen by each skimmer. One way to avoid it is to pay for gas with cash and that is if the ATM that has been used to obtain the cash hasn’t got a skimmer installed. Another way is to mandate that transactions be handled by humans. This would increase local jobs which have been lost to automation and close the loophole that allows large criminal enterprises around the world to thrive on information electronically stolen and trafficked through the internet.

It seems these skimmers can only be installed if the gas pump cabinet has been opened and this can only be done through the use of force or by unlocking it with a skeleton key. So be very careful when pumping gas or using an ATM. Look for the Department of Agriculture’s seal with Adam Putnam’s name on it. Move the opening to see if the lock’s been tampered with and immediately report any irregularities you spot to the attendant inside. They may not even realize there was a problem unless you alert them to it.

However, those caught using a skimming device to steal credit card information will require an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney to represent them in court to ensure they don’t get the maximum penalty for a very unpopular crime in Florida these days, credit card fraud and credit card forgery.

Increase your knowledge! If you want to know more about how to resolve the problems you face when charged with a criminal offense in Florida, then you can follow Miami Criminal Attorney Albert M. Quirantes on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

If you have any questions about this or any other criminal accusation, call Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Albert Quirantes at: 305-644-1800 or visit our homepage for a direct link to the office or a text message or a map and directions to our office.

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