Credit card skimmers rip off at least 50 victims, Sheriff believes there may be more
MADERA – If you used a credit or debit card to gas up at the Shell station on Avenue 12 in Madera Ranchos, you might want to check the charges on your monthly bill.
Madera is the third county hit so far by what authorities believe to be a credit card skimming ring. The thieves were able to steal card numbers and other personal information stored on the cards when they were swiped, by using an electronic card skimmer attached to a gas pump between Aug. 30 and Sept. 10, according to the Madera County Sheriff’s Department.Starting two months ago, residents in Tulare and Fresno began reporting fraudulent charges on their credit cards. Authorities believe the same group of thieves then moved on to Madera County.
In all three counties, skimmers were attached to gas pumps at Shell gas stations, according to a sheriff’s department press release.
This skimming operation has already victimized more than 50 gas station customers in Madera County, and dozens – possibly hundreds – more in Fresno and Tulare.
“That figure continues to grow as card holders discover fraudulent charges on their monthly statements,” said Erica Stuart, public information officer for the Madera County Sheriff’s Department, in a Sept. 20 press release.
In all, 27 victims have come forward as of today, Stuart stated, but a bank that investigated the fraudulent charges reported that it has discovered more than 50 victims so far. All of those victims reported purchasing gas at the Shell Station in Madera Ranchos.
Sheriff John Anderson said the only way cardholders learned they had been defrauded was when some large purchases, made in Southern California, appeared on their monthly statements.
Between Aug. 30 and Sept. 10, the card skimmers “made off with thousands and thousands of dollars worth of merchandise purchased with the stolen credit card information,” Anderson said. “But skimmers don’t just pull numbers, they also swipe from you all confidential and personal data that belongs to your credit card. They are also using that skimmed data to open their own accounts at the cardholders’ expense.”
No one was seen applying the skimmer to the gas pumps, Anderson added, “and it would be nearly impossible for a customer to know it was even there.”
Anyone with information about this skimming ring is urged to call the Sheriff’s office at 559-675-7770, or make an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers, at 498-STOP. Crime Stoppers tips leading to an arrest could be worth up to $1,000.
The Sheriff’s Department also is encouraging residents to run a credit check on themselves to find out if their credit card has fallen victim to this type of fraud. If it has, it should be reported immediately to the card issuer and to law enforcement.