More Bad News At The Gasoline Station – identity thieves who install hard-to-detect electronic devices at stations to steal credit and debit card data.
If you drive a car – and that means almost everyone in the U.S. - an unthought-of source of identity theft worries has become a problem in many states. Incidents in many states have law-enforcement personnel scrambling to deal with a new identity theft threat - “skimmers” attached to gasoline pumps that store credit card data. These devices look so much like the actual card-swipe hardware used by gas stations that they’re hard to detect. Thieves attach these devices for a month or more and then retrieve them – as well as the data from thousands of credit cards.
Just yesterday, three men were arraigned in a Los Angeles courtroom for stealing over $2 million by installing devices on gas station pumps that recorded credit card numbers. They were each charged with conspiracy, identity theft, grand theft and computer access fraud, and each man faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. According to prosecutors, they installed skimmers on computerized gas pumps, which recorded credit card, debit card and PIN numbers that later were used to withdraw cash from ATMs. When arrested on February 25th, they were in possession of more than 10,000 stolen credit card numbers. Police also seized $40,000 in cash and several cars, including a Ferrari.
In February, Rocklin California police stated that that at least 57 people had their debit card information stolen by devices hidden in two gas pumps at one gas station. So far, at least $43,000 was taken from ATM accounts by cards created by the thieves using stolen numbers. It is likely that the total theft is much higher, as only two of the 16 financial institutions whose cards were affected have so far reported customers' losses to police. Police have obtained security camera footage of eight suspects using ATMs with the stolen PINs and homemade cards related to this skimming case.
Because using your credit or ATM card at the gas pump doesn’t involve a cashier, identity thieves find them to be an easy (and lucrative) target – in one estimate, between $1 million and $3.5 million was stolen from victims of gas pump identity theft in five states over four months in 2008!