Every week I get emails from well meaning coworkers, friends and relatives warning me of nonexistent threats. I am the curmudgeon who sends the Snopes link in response to warnings that aspertame will give me a brain tumor or faux perfume salesmen will knock me out with ether in shopping mall parking lots.
Imagine my surprise when this morning I received an email mass posted to the company warning of a burglary scam that happens to be true:
I just found out my bank debit card was illegally used in the past two days. I filled my car up with gas on Saturday at an Arco gas station on Balboa and Sherman Way and apparently they got my card information after I finished that transaction and in the past two days they have hit my account for 480.00 dollars. They tried to run another transaction for 1080.00 dollars at an Office Depot in Carson but the bank security system suspected fraudulent activity and froze my card. This has been going on for a while at Arco Stations.
More on the debit card scammers after the jump.
A quick search turned up a few articles on the ongoing scam. The OC Register explains that three people are working together in Huntington Beach to place false keypads and cardreaders on ATM machines in Arco stations. They “skim” the information from the cards, print a fake card and then withdraw money. According to the Register, more than 40 cards have been produced and upwards of $75,000 has been withdrawn from people’s accounts. The story includes pictures both of the “skimming scammers” and the fake keypads. The same sort of thing has been going on in Costa Mesa. The Daily Pilot reported almost a week ago that there were 18 victims in Costa Mesa.
The LA Times has reported nothing, and it seems clear from my coworker’s experience that the activity has spread to the SFV. All of which leads me to my warning that makes this post sound like something you want to look up in Snopes: Apparently a lot of these false keypads are fastened pretty loosely. Before you swipe your card, you should try to jiggle the keypad. And if it looks brand spanking new, I’d be wary as well.
Thus endeth your warnings for the day. I will not even bring up the possibility of causing an explosion from using your cell phone at the pump.