Southern California

Authorities Warn of Gas Station Credit Card Scam

They steal your money with just one swipe.

Investigators say that's what's happening at many gas stations in Southern California.

Paul Jordan couldn't believe it when he found a skimmer in a gas pump, one he had just used to fill up.

"It was pretty obvious there was something wrong, but it was almost a little shocking," he said.

As a supervising inspector for the Ventura County Division of Weights and Measures, his job is to find fraud at the pump but last month he became a victim of identity theft.

"Technically I owe them $500," he said.

Jordan said he received a call from his credit card company that his account had maxed out. He tracked down the last use of his card to a gas station and made the discovery.

Only three days before Jordan's group, along with United States Secret Service and the Ventura County Sheriff's Department conducted a major sweep of more than 1,500 individual gas pumps across the county.

Authorities found three pumps had devices called skimmers.

"I refer to it as kind of being parasitic," Jordan said.

They steal your debit or credit card information including pins. Losses from a single illegal skimming device on a fuel pump can average $50,000 — $100,000.

The pump that caught Jordan off guard did not have a skimmer during the investigation.

"They came in right behind the sweep and put a new skimmer in," said Angela Godwin, a sealer with Ventura County Weights and Measures.

It's a testament to how fast authorities say the thieves work. They even use Bluetooth to hack into customers accounts.

Micro chip credit cards should make it more difficult to take your information.

Service stations have an extra year or two to come into compliance, so there might be more issues, Godwin said.

Mo Taheri, a gas station owner, takes it personal because he has been a victim of identity theft.

"I put double locks, extra cameras," he said.

He also uses special security tap with serial codes.

Godwin said many gas stations owners only have cameras pointing at their front doors.

"Anything over $5 purchases comes across my phone seems like overkill but at least I know what's happening," Godwin said.

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