Eli Portnoy worried something was wrong when he went to pump gas at the station near his Miami Beach neighborhood.
"I actually played with the terminal to make sure it was loose of all things,” Portnoy said.
But he didn’t see anything amiss so he went on to fill his tank.
Within two days he got a call from his credit card company questioning some charges that were made. Charges he says he didn’t make. He soon realized his credit card information was compromised and he was able to trace it back to his neighborhood gas station.
"So I started doing homework and realized that there were other people that allegedly had their card stolen at the same location and I felt compelled. Someone needed to do something," he said. "The question is what's the solution? And I don't know what it is other than using cash."
Skimmers continue to be found in gas pumps across Florida. 128 skimmers have been found statewide through mid-April 2017. That’s on pace to surpass last year’s total when 219 skimmers were found.
State lawmakers passed a law to try to prevent these crimes. It went into effect in October 2016. It required gas stations to have security measures including a sticky seal that would notify workers if someone had tampered with the pump.
“If the door opens, the seal breaks,” said Miami-Dade Economics Crime Detective Marcos Rodriguez explained. “Once you pull the seal off, it says void.”
The NBC 6 Investigators obtained the list of the stations where state inspectors have found skimmers this year but didn’t find security in place. At three locations we checked, there still weren’t seals on the pumps last week.
But what’s more alarming is that at more than half of the gas stations where the state has found skimmers, security tape was properly in place.
Det. Rodriguez says thieves are sometimes stealing the tape or bringing their own to replace it.
“What they’ll do is, they’ll come, rip the seal out, put in the skimming device, and put the duplicate seal over the pump,” he explained.
He also says the department is seeing thieves being more creative with the skimmers they use. That includes a skimmer that looks nearly exactly like where the card gets inserted.
He says even someone who knows what to look for would have a hard time seeing it.
“You won’t even see the hanging wire,” he said.
He said thieves are even using Bluetooth technology to retrieve the credit card information without having to open up the machine.
“It gives them the ability to quickly come by and download whatever numbers the skimming device has inside,” he said.
He recommends against using a pump with a seal that’s been tampered with or a pump that doesn’t have one. He also recommends using a pump closest to and in sight of a clerk. He also says to pay inside rather than at the pump.