Dozens of frauds linked to gas
Published: March 29, 2012
AS REPORTS continue to pour in of credit
card fraud resulting from multiple incidents of skimming at a
Pacific Grove gas station, police are trying to determine the
extent of the damage and find out who had placed the little
devices — which capture customers’ credit card and debit card
information — on a particular gas pump at the Union 76 on Forest
Avenue on at least three separate occasions.
“You don’t know how much damage is done until weeks, if not
months later,” said Pacific Grove Police Cmdr. John Miller. “You
don’t know how many cards were taken and then used.”
Since late February, more than two dozen people have reported
fraudulent use of credit-card numbers they might have used at
the station, where the pump targeted by thieves was located out
of view of the station’s security camera, according to Miller.
More victims were reported after previous incidents, with
police discovering two skimmers on the gas pump last December
and suspecting another had been placed there after additional
reports came in in February. Last month, an employee at the
station found one of the gadgets during a routine check,
according to Miller.
“The skimmer that was recovered in March was because they were
doing daily inspections of the machine,” he said. “It wasn’t
like we were getting daily reports like we were back in
February, when we ran up there and said to open their machines.”
Police didn’t find a device then, so presumably the thieves got
away with the stolen information.
The skimmer found in March didn’t have the ability to transmit
its stolen data for remote pickup, which means the thief would
have to physically retrieve it to obtain the credit card numbers
he was stealing. Other devices do have wireless capability —
usually by Bluetooth.
Using a skimmer that doesn’t have wireless capability means the
thief has to “open the gas pump, and place it on the circuit
board, and then open the machine and remove it to download all
the data,” Miller said.
Victims have reported credit-card theft linked to the Union 76
almost daily since Feb. 27. Investigators are in the process of
compiling information from reports in P.G., as well as from
police departments in other jurisdictions.
“Some of those others have people in custody for fraudulent use
of credit cards — across the United States, and a lot in
Southern California,” he said. “We received one call from
The fraud reports and arrests are so widespread because
identity thieves sell victims’ personal information via online
clearinghouses, according to Miller.
“It’s a black-market situation,” he said. “Once somebody has
that information, they can sell it or distribute it via the
PGPD also requested help from a high-tech task force created by
the state Department of Justice called REACT — the Rapid
Enforcement Allied Computer Team. That partnership of local,
state and federal agencies and the Santa Clara County District
Attorney’s Office doesn’t typically involve itself in crimes on
the Monterey Peninsula, according to Miller, “but we’ve reached
out to them, and they’ve been helpful.”
“It’s a very specialized and very expensive part of law
enforcement, staying abreast of the technology that changes by
the moment,” he explained.
Meanwhile, the station’s owners are trying to reduce further
incidents of credit-card theft.
“Their in-place security measures were lacking, and they’re
working on that — they’re installing more cameras and changed
the locks on the machines,” Miller said. “They were ID’d as an
easy target. Obviously, as business owners, they don’t like
being identified with this type of activity.”