Sacto 9-1-1
February 25, 2010
Rocklin gas pump scam discovered after thousands of dollars are stolen

By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

Rocklin police have confirmed that at least 57 people were scammed when their debit card information was stolen by sophisticated devices hidden in two gas pumps.

Victims have come forward since the devices were discovered Dec. 21 in the pumps at the AM/PM gas station at Sunset Boulevard and Park Drive, said Rocklin police Lt. Lon Milka.

In the past, thieves used devices on the outside of gas pumps to extract PINs and other information from cards. They installed tiny cameras and card skimmers to steal the information and then dip into a victim's account.

This time, devices were installed in gas pumps. Police say they believe the devices intercept information and send the PIN and other debit card information to someone with a laptop.

The criminals then create a card that allows them to withdraw money from the victim's account at ATMs.

Similar scams have been reported in Southern California, San Mateo, Martinez, Vacaville, Citrus Heights and Sacramento, Milka said.

Rocklin police determined that $43,000 was taken from ATM accounts by cards created by the scam. That amount could climb because only two of 16 financial institutions that provided the debit cards to customers who were scammed have reported losses to police.

Rocklin police have obtained photographs of eight people using ATMs with the stolen PINs and homemade cards.

The Orange County District Attorney's office is leading an investigation of thefts similar to the Rocklin incidents. Some of the people captured on camera using the stolen PINs from the Rocklin station appear to match suspects in Southern California, Milka said.

The Rocklin devices came to light after a customer noticed unauthorized withdrawals with his debit card. He went back to the AM/PM and the proprietor of the station found devices inside two pumps.

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

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

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