Wednesday, July 23, 2008
So Much for Fueling It Up
This morning when I started my car, the all-too-familiar "empty" light flashed on. Almost out of gas, once again. The only good thing about this was that it meant I had yet another chance to BUY LOCAL. Gas stations are one thing we actually HAVE here in Pomona. Given my recent posts on the subject, it was with a great sense of pride that I pulled in Fuel It Up on N. Garey at Arrow. While I had previously spot-lighted them on the blog (click below), I had never actually gotten gas there. I tried, but since Mr. Big is usually with me when I'm in that area, and the signs on their pumps announce that customers must "pay inside," well it's unsafe to leave him in the car unattended. Today, with no Mr. Big in tow, I was ready to finally patronize this colorfully-painted business.
The first thing that was sort of odd, is that when I went inside the store to pay, no one was there, and it was a good two minutes before anyone came inside. The man who came inside did not have a name tag on and that sort of bothered me too. I paid by credit card and what was irregular about that was that it looked like a normal cash receipt, but there was no pre-printed line for my signature. Instead, the checker drew a line in pen along the side of the receipt and had me sign my name perpendicular to the rest of the receipt. I convinced myself that these irregularities were rather charming in a funky Pomona kind of way. The gas station was absent of any other customers, 'cept a woman and her teenage son in an old caddie. Otherwise, the pump worked fine and the money I put in seemed to make my gas monitor go up to to the proper level.
Well, fast forward to tonight. A few minutes ago, I turned on the Channel 9 news to see the cashier at Fuel It Up being interviewed about an alleged credit card scam operating out of the gas station. I just checked my email and here's the press release from webwatch:
"The Pomona Police Department has initiated a Fraud Investigation after receiving multiple complaints from victims of Identity Theft and the unauthorized use of their ATM/Credit accounts resulting in the cumulative loss of thousands of dollars from their accounts.
A common thread of many of these complaints is the use of an ATM card for a PIN-based transaction or a credit card at the "Fuel-It-Up" gasoline station located at the southwest corner of Garey Avenue and Arrow Highway in the City of Pomona . Victims discovered that monies had been illegally withdrawn from their accounts at various locations after they had made a PIN-based or credit card purchase at that location. Victims discovered that cash had been withdrawn from their accounts at the Pechanga Casino in Temecula, Ca and various casinos in Las Vegas , NV .
In a process known as "card skimming", account information and PINs (Personal Identification Numbers) are electronically copied when an ATM/credit card is used to make a purchase. That information is then used to produce a counterfeit ATM/credit card or to make internet transactions. The victim will often not detect the theft until much later when they review their accounts.
The La Verne Police Department has also received several complaints from residents of La Verne and is also investigating similar losses. The United States Secret Service has been contacted and an investigation by that agency is pending.
On July 17, 2008, investigators from the Pomona Police Department visited Fuel-It-Up and seized equipment suspected of being used to obtain ATM/credit card account information and PINs. That equipment consisted of a card reader, computer, and video equipment which was found in plain sight within the business. Also observed were notes on the fuel pumps directing customers to go inside to make ATM/credit purchases rather than using the pay-at-the pump option.
It is unknown at this time who was involved in using the compromised information to commit the fraudulent transactions. Management for the business reported that the equipment seized by this agency was in place when they bought the location from the previous owners in July of 2007.
The investigation is continuing. At this time it appears that fraudulent transactions may have been made as early as May 2008, but the problem was not reported to Pomona Police until July 2008. The investigation has indicated that as much as $57,000 was fraudulently obtained via various compromised accounts in one day. The total amount of loss has yet to be determined.
This Press Release is issued as an advisory to consumers to attempt to prevent losses by alerting them to potential fraudulent card skimming. Also, persons who have been victims of theft from their accounts after making a purchase or other transaction at the "Fuel-It-Up" business are asked to contact the Pomona Police Department to make a theft report. Reports may be made at the Pomona Police Department Front Desk daily from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Victims are asked to bring bank statements or transaction records showing suspected fraudulent transactions and purchases made at the location.
For further information, Det. Bob Nelson may be contacted at (909) 620-2095.
Persons who may have additional information but wish to remain anonymous may contact We Tip at 1-800-78-CRIME."
GofP: I'm assuming the gig is up and that my credit card info was not compromised today. But all in all, I'm not feeling too good about my most recent shopping local experience. Tomorrow, however, is a brand new day (if I have any money in my account by then)!