By Tamas Mondovics

The recent arrest of a man who was caught using a credit card skimmer at a local gas pump reminded motorist and ATM users of the continued need to be vigilant in order to avoid becoming the next victim.

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Public Information Office reported two recent cases of a skimmer placed inside a gas pump in May and in June. Both incidents came on the heels of a skimmer recently discovered at the former BP station on Lithia Pinecrest Road across from Lithia Pinecrest Elementary School.

Thanks to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Economic Detectives, the suspect, Alberto Y. Garcia, 31, did not get a chance to scam anyone else. Unfortunately the damage is already done as the skimmer devices are usually attached to the gas pumps or the ATM machines only for a short time.

According to HCSO Public Information Officer Larry McKinnon, the owner of the Sunoco Station 10312 Rosemount Dr. in Tampa, which was hit in May, detected the device and went back into the store to contact HCSO.

“While the owner was briefly inside the store, Garcia removed the skimmer and fled the scene,” McKinnon said.  

In the June skimmer incident involving a Citgo gas station, McKinnon said that the employees observed an unknown male and female park their SUV in front of the gas pump for approximately 15 minutes, paid for gas with a prepaid card inside the store, but did not put gas into their vehicle. The employees thought the events appeared suspicious and inspected the gas pump. Upon inspection, they observed a skimmer attached to the gas pump and HCSO was notified.

“Notifying law enforcement is the best thing to do,” McKinnon said, adding that often these incidents go unreported as victims only call their bank to be reimbursed, but fail to notify the gas station staff or authorities.

There are a number of basic steps that can be taken to avoid being a victim, such as being alert, not using a debit card, which would avoid entering a PIN in sight of a Card Skimmer camera, or inspecting another card reader nearby.

Evidence collected at both above mentioned gas stations have positively linked Garcia as the person who placed the skimmers on both pumps. Detectives obtained arrest warrants and arrested Garcia at his residence without incident. Detectives are reviewing similar cases and additional charges are pending.

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