Credit card skimming is rapidly on the rise across the state of Florida, and South Florida is being called “ground zero” for skimming frauds. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, inspectors found 169 skimmers in 2015, 219 skimmers in 2016 and tripled to 655 skimmers in 2017. And the numbers continue to rise: in just the first six months of 2018 inspectors have recovered 539 skimmers, putting Florida on track for over 1,000 skimmers this year alone. Data shows more than half of the skimming devices were found at gas pumps located in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Skimming frauds may be most prevalent in South Florida, but they are quickly spreading to other states. Last week a Miami man and his accomplice were sentenced in North Carolina to 33 months in federal prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release, for a gas pump credit and debit card-skimming fraud. Both men pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
According to case documents, Elio Arturo Rodriguez-Mendez, 47, of Miami, Florida, and Jean Jesus Rodriguez-Silva, 33, of Louisville, Kentucky used keys to open boxes on gas pumps at two gas stations to attach a skimmer. The skimmer was a long data cord that intercepted the debit card information of customers who were buying gas.
Since the cord was inside the pump, customers did not notice anything unusual when making a purchase. The cord was connected to a flash drive that stored the information until the men came back to retrieve it. The men later used that information to make purchases, according to investigators. The investigation began following a fraud victim's complaint. By tracing the use of the stolen card information, investigators identified the two men on store security footage at various Walmart stores associated with purchases using that victim's card and other cards. The pair was subsequently stopped after leaving their hotel and was found in possession of devices commonly found in card-skimming activity conducted at gas pumps.
Investigators were able to read the information contained on the flash drive and determine that more than 300 customers had their information intercepted.
Rodriguez-Silva was charged with five counts of identity theft, three counts of credit card forgery, one count of financial card transaction forgery, and three counts of possessing a financial card forgery device.
Rodriguez-Mendez was charged with two counts of credit card forgery, four counts of identity theft, one count of possessing a financial card forgery device, one charge of counterfeiting, one count of obtaining property by false pretense, and forgery by financial card transaction. He has a prior arrest out of Texas on similar charges.