Skimmer at North Bay gas station steals from debit accounts

Byby Katie Utehs via KGO logo
Saturday, January 16, 2016
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Victims have had money stolen from their debit accounts through a card skimmer found at a San Anselmo gas station.

SAN ANSELMO, Calif. (KGO) -- Thieves have stolen thousands of dollars using debit card skimmers at a North Bay gas station. Police say the case spans several counties and includes more than 30 victims, many of them from the Gas & Shop in San Anselmo.

Police expect more victims to come forward following this report. The skimming is so sophisticated that you swipe your cad at the gas pump and many of the people likely don't even realize they've been scammed.

One man told ABC7 News he had $1,500 drained from his account.

"I go right by here every day. It's a great gas station, price is good," fraud victim Chris Kirby said. "It's so convenient to use a debit card and it's the cheapest way to get gas."

Criminals are banking on your efforts to save a buck.

Kirby is one of many regular customers who have now become fraud victims at the Gas & Shop along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in San Anselmo.

"A physical skimmer was used. By the time detectives got here and checked, the skimmers were gone," Central Marin Police spokesperson Margo Rohrbacher said.

Skimming technology is always improving and hard to spot, as shown by San Leandro police. They are sometimes installed outside an ATM or pump and sometimes put within the machine. So far, more than 35 people have reported fraudulent card charges to the Central Marin Police Authority.

"So it was $500 yesterday, $483 this morning and then one other attempt in Berkeley," fraud victim Doug Kelly said.

It appears the thief is local; the person is making withdrawals across the Bay Area using the stolen info.

"This is a rampant crime happening right now in Marin, Sonoma, and Contra Costa Counties," Rohrbacher said.

"The good news is of course the bank is covering the fraud. The bad news is this goes on often. I'm really pleased that the Central Marin Police Department is on it because I'd like to see an arrest," Kelly said.

Police are asking anyone who's fueled at the Gas & Shop within the last 60 days to check their bank statements. Detectives want victims to come forward so they can follow the fraudulent transactions.

Note from the Central Marin Police Authority:

This type of fraud is occurring throughout Marin, Sonoma, and Contra Costa counties and detectives are working with allied agencies on this investigation. Anyone who has used a debit or credit card at the Gas and Shop in the past 60 days should contact their financial institution and review their account activity. If you have been a victim, or have any other information about this case, contact Central Marin Police at 415-927-5150

Skimming crimes are difficult to detect but there are some things you can do to protect yourself. A skimming device may not be readily apparent but be alert to an odd-looking card reader attached to, or protruding from a gas pump. Even though it's less convenient, pay for gas inside rather than at the pump, or use cash. Regularly monitor your bank and credit card accounts for any unusual activity.