Gas skimmers on rise in Lee County, data shows
Since January, investigators have found skimmers at eight gas stations across Lee County. At four of the gas stations, the devices were found more than once.
Six of the locations are 7-Elevens.
An employee at one of the locations told WINK News he thinks crooks target 7-Eleven because they get a lot of customers and more customers mean more opportunities for skimmers to succeed in swiping money.
In the last five years, the Florida Department of Agriculture reported the number of skimmers is growing in Southwest Florida.
In 2015, skimmers were found at just four gas stations.
In 2020, that number grew to 22.
“Skimmers are an easy way for bad guys to make money and make money fast,” said Carrie Kerskie, a cybersecurity specialist. “Also, skimmers have been evolving and improving over the years.”
“Now they’re getting smaller and smaller, and they have Bluetooth capabilities so a lot of times the bad guys don’t even have to come back to retrieve them,” she added.
Most skimmers found locally are in Lee County.
In 2020, they found 32 skimmers at 16 Lee County gas stations, up from 12 skimmers at six stations in the year before.
Seven of the 16 gas stations hit in 2020 were also 7-Elevens.
Kerskie said that could be because of their many locations and their popularity.
“We see a lot of them being on gas stations near exits near interstates, you know, quick and easy, on and off, because they notice where people are going to be fueling up,” Kerskie said.
But the Department of Agriculture’s data also shows most of the gas stations with the skimmers had security.
“If they’re making a lot of money at something, they’re going to find a way around it,” Kerskie said.
Some 7-Elevens are corporate-owned, others are franchises.
Corporate did not respond to a request for comment and local owners of 7-Eleven could not be reached.
The best advice when you fill up at any gas station is to not use any pump that isn’t in the cashier’s line of sight. Those are the ones crooks target because they have a better chance of putting in a skimmer without being seen, Kerskie said.