Sacto 9-1-1
December 24, 2009
Rocklin police: More than two dozen fall victim to debit card scheme

From Bill Lindelof

Rocklin police said Thursday that the number of people reporting that their debit card information was stolen by a sophisticated device hidden in two Rocklin gas pumps continues to grow.

"It's getting more and more scary," Rocklin Police Lt. Lon Milka. "We are getting more and more victims. They are coming out of the woodwork."

At least two dozens victims have come forward since the devices were discovered in the pumps at the AM/PM gas station at Sunset Boulevard and Park Drive on Dec. 21. One victim had $1,416 taken out of his bank account in three days and another had almost $1,000 stolen.

In years past, devices on the outside of a gas pump were used to get pin numbers and information from cards. Tiny cameras and card skimmers were used to steal the information and then dip into a victim's account.

But in this case, somebody has gotten into the gas pump and placed a device inside. Police believe the device intercepts information and sends the pin number and other debit card information to somebody with a laptop.

The criminal then creates a card that allows them to go to an ATM and withdraw money from the victim's account.

"They are able to get into the actual gas pump," said Milka. "So, obviously, those pumps are not very secure. Whoever manufactures them has to come up with something better."

Milka said other police agencies are battling the same crime. He advises gas station operators to look inside gas pumps for foreign devices.

That is what happened in the Rocklin case: a customer noticed unauthorized withdrawals with his or her debit card. He went back to the AM/PM and the proprietor of the station found the device inside two pumps.

The proprietor then called Rocklin police. It is unclear how long the devices had been inside the pumps, Milka said.

The most fool-proof way to avoid such as scam is to use cash. Or, Milka said, a customer could go inside the station office and have the clerk swipe a debit card, Milka said.

The scam at the AM/PM exclusively involved debit cards, not credit cards, said Milka.

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