florida department of AG credit card skimming

Florida Department of Agriculture Makes Arrest in Gas Pump Skimmer Investigation

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement (OALE) made an arrest after an investigation into a credit card skimming operation in Levy County. On October 21, OALE investigators took David Ortiz-Barban into custody — he was booked into the Hernando County Jail, and bond was set at $30,000.

“The Sunshine State is known for beaches and oranges, but also fraud — we are the top state for scams, and gas pump skimmers are a driving factor,” stated Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Skimmers, and the criminals who install them, threaten consumer rights and interests, as well as Floridians’ economic security — since 2015 FDACS has located and removed over 4,860 skimmers at gas stations throughout the state. FDACS is committed to aggressively pursuing these perpetrators and taking swift action to protect consumers.”

Timeline and background information:

August 12: OALE investigators opened an investigation into a credit card skimming operation in Levy County, Florida. OALE investigators recovered numerous skimming devices attached to fuel dispenser pumps.

August 13 and 19: OALE investigators were made aware that someone had breached a fuel dispenser and tampered with the inner electronic components at the Marathon fuel station in Bronson, Florida. Through surveillance and witness information, investigators were able to identify two male subjects that had been present and were directly in front of the opened fuel pump dispenser door, accessing and altering the electronic components and stealing an electronic motherboard with a skimming device previously installed. Through research in law enforcement databases, OALE investigators ascertained that the license plate used during the commission of the crimes had been attached to additional vehicles since July 29. Due to the license plate being affixed to an Enterprise cargo van, investigators were able to identify David Ortiz-Barban as the individual observed in the surveillance photographs.

October 12: OALE investigators obtained a sworn statement from the victim. In the statement, the victim stated that the damage, repair, and monetary loss for the altering of the fuel pump resulted in an estimated loss of over $1,000.

October 21: OALE investigators took David Ortiz-Barban into custody on an arrest warrant. David Ortiz Barban was transported to and booked into the Hernando County Jail. Bond was set at $30,000.

Arrestee: David Ortiz-Barban, H/M DOB:10-2-1987, 4288 Baudelaire Ct., Brooksville, Florida 34604

Mr. Ortiz-Barban was charged with the following:

  • One (1) count of Grand Theft While Causing Damage to Property of Another in excess of $1000.00 pursuant to Florida Statute §812.014 (2)(a)(3)(b) a felony of the first degree                                                 
  • Two (2) counts of Unauthorized Access to an Electronic Device pursuant to Florida Statute §815.06 (3)(b)(2) felonies of the second degree
  • Two (2) counts of Criminal Mischief (interruption or impairment of a business operation) pursuant to Florida Statute §806.13 (1)(b)(3) felonies of the third degree
  • One (1) count of Possession of a Skimming Device pursuant to Florida Statute §817.625 (2)(c) a felony of the third degree

Skimmers: Skimmers are small electronic devices illegally installed inside gas pumps – first appeared in Florida in 2015 and have grown exponentially since. FDACS’ Bureau of Standards inspects over 8,700 gas stations each year and has removed 4,860 skimmers since 2015. The Bureau also inspects pumps for safety and accuracy. Skimmers can be undetectable to consumers because of their location inside gas pumps, and have a potential for $1 million in fraudulent credit card charges per skimmer. They range from simple devices that clamp onto internal wiring that criminals must later retrieve, to sophisticated devices that deliver stolen credit card data via Bluetooth and automated text messaging. For more information visit FDACS.gov/skimmers.

Since September, FDACS has partnered with local law enforcement offices in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Volusia, Flagler, Orange, Sarasota, St. Johns, Broward, and Bay Counties to perform multiple successful gas pump skimmer sweeps of over 1,500 gas stations.

Consumer tips to avoid fraud at the pump:

Take a close look at the pump: Avoid using pumps that are open or unlocked, have had the tamper-evident security tape cut or removed, or otherwise appear unusual. If unsure, use another pump or pay inside with cash or a credit card.

Use a credit card, not a debit card: If a credit card number is skimmed, you’re protected by the card issuer’s zero-liability policy – but a stolen debit card number could be far more damaging. If you must use a debit card, choose to use it as credit, instead of selecting debit and entering your PIN.

Pay inside, not at the pump: It takes just seconds for criminals to place a skimmer in a gas pump — but it’s far less likely that a skimmer has been placed on the payment terminal in front of the clerk inside the gas station or convenience store. Take the few extra minutes to pay inside with cash or a credit card to protect yourself from fraud.

Choose gas pumps closest to the physical building: Don’t use gas pumps out of the attendant’s line of sight such as those around a corner or behind a building. Thieves placing skimmers are less likely to put them in pumps where the store attendant may catch them in the act.

Check card statements and sign up for fraud alerts: Nearly every credit card issuer offers fraud alerts, and many will email or text you when your card is used at a gas station. Check your credit card and debit card transactions frequently to make sure no fraudulent activity has occurred.

If consumers suspect a gas pump skimmer, they should contact FDACS — all consumer complaints will be investigated. To file a consumer complaint, visit FloridaConsumerHelp.com or call 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (in Spanish).

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