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Gas pump security: Cape Council to tackle ‘skimming’

By Staff | Mar 1, 2018

“Skimming” is among the fastest growing crime trends in Southwest Florida and the nation because it’s tough for law enforcement to fight.

It happens when someone puts a scanning device in a gasoline pump to steal credit card information.

On Monday, city officials will look for ways to stop it here.

Skimming has become a low-risk, high-reward way of scamming customers who have become used to the convenience of being able to pay for gasoline without having to go inside.

The Cape Coral Police Department will give a presentation on the problem and how the agency plans to remedy it through its Economic Crimes Unit. The unit plans to work with retailers, Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Agriculture.

There will be both proactive and reactive measures taken, through sweeps where authorities will locate and seize skimmers as well as investigating fraudulent transactions.

In Cape Coral, 16 skimmers have been discovered in the last 13 months, targeting older, low technology pumps. The technology has gotten more advanced with overlay, and embedded skimmers that can now work with Bluetooth and cellular technologies.

An ordinance under consideration would impact every owner or operator of a gas pump in the city which contains a scanning device used to dispense gasoline for sale to the public, requiring a visible gas pump panel locking device with an access key unique to each gas station to restrict the unauthorized access of customer credit or debit card information.

That could mean something as simple as a lock and hasp, or the operator may have to install other security measures such as a device that renders the gas pump inoperable if there is unauthorized opening of the pump panel, or something that encrypts the customer payment card information in the scanning device.

“Anything we can do for our residents without putting a burden on business owners is a good thing. Adding a layer of security for credit card skimmers is a great idea,” said Councilmember Jessica Cosden. “Many gas station owners have taken it upon themselves to add security.”

In other business, the City Council on Monday will look to approve the long-planned Cape Coral Animal Shelter to be located at 325 SW 2nd Ave. near Sun Splash, rezoning the property from Single-Family Residential to Institutional; granting a special exception for an animal shelter use; and deviations from the Land Use and Development Regulations.

Cosden, a lifelong Cape Coral resident, said this is something she has looked forward to since she was a child.

“This is exciting and I know a lot of the people behind this. They are great people in the community and I’m totally behind them,” Cosden said.

The regular meeting agenda also includes the introduction of an ordinance to once again consider extended bar hours in the South Cape. If it moves forward, Council will vote on the proposal on March 19.

The city tried extended bar hours in a trial basis in 2015 but decided against them.

Councilmember John Carioscia said he would like to put the idea on the table again, especially with the $13.5 million Southwest 47th Terrace project set to be completed by the end of the year.

Cape Coral City Council’s regular meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall. City Hall is at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.