The Village of Estero is following the footsteps of Cape Coral and Punta Gorda. The Village Council plans to pass an ordinance that will require gas stations to have more safeguards in place so consumer credit cards aren’t skimmed.
The council voted unanimously on Wednesday to push forward on this new ordinance. The ordinance instructs gas stations to put individual locks, each with its own unique key, on all operating gas pumps within the village. The locks will deter scammers because it will be significantly more difficult to break into the gas pumps and insert the illegal software.
Skimmers harvest data from a customer that swipes his or her card at a gas station outside payment terminal. The thief will eventually return to the gas station to pick up the malicious card reader files with stolen financial information. The data can eventually be used by the unscrupulous person to break into bank accounts or to create cloned cards. Unfortunately, one of the reasons why these malicious card readers are so effective is it does not impair the payment terminal from functioning properly.
Councilman Jim Wilson said that having a universal key for gas pumps is something that needs to be changed to prevent fraudulent activity.
"I’m somebody who understands the problem with these skimmers because we take annual summer vacations and travel around the country," Wilson said.
Several gas stations within Estero have had repeated problem with gas skimmers. Some of these gas stations, according to Wilson, have even been called out by residents in the Village for not implementing technology to deter gas station skimmers more effectively.
"Some of the Estero gas stations have actually had their name and locations posted on social media saying, 'Don't buy gas at this station because we were skimmed there,'" the councilman said. "I don't want to say who those were because I think they've since fixed it."
If this ordinance becomes approved, then gas stations that do not follow the ordinance will be fined $250 per pump per day until the designated locks are put in place.
In the meantime, there are two options that will allow humans of SWFL to avoid card skimmers completely. The first is to pay the attendant inside the gas station. The other option is to use a mobile app, which is downloaded on both Apple and Android smartphones, at select gas stations such as Shell, BP or Exxon.
The board plans on continuing the process to pass this rule at its meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 17.