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I.D. Theft Ring Stole Credit Card Numbers at Gas Pumps using Bluetooth Technology

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Photo by Andres Rueda via Flickr

Photo by Andres Rueda via Flickr
So you go the gas pump, insert your card and fill the tank. What you may not know is that a thief installed a card skimmer on the pump so they could steal your info and re-crete the card for their own purchase. Three prolific identify theft suspects were arrested of just that today by a large task force led by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department with the FBI, LAPD, Glendale Police, ICE, USPS and U.S. Attorneys Office. It took four years to nab the suspects in an operation authorities dubbed "Operation Big Skim." Card skimming is when a device in attached to gas pump by removing the cover and installing a skimmer. It reads and stores card data until a thief physically uninstalls the devices or uses bluetooth technology to download the information.

Today, search warrants were served in Lancaster, Santa Clarita and Los Angeles where authorities found bluetooth equipped skimming devices in addition to hundreds of credit cards and high-end cars.

"The scary thing about skimming devices is that there's really no way to detect it because they're installed in the gas pump," explained Lt. Ron Williams of Sheriff's Department to LAist. He said customers are best served by paying inside instead of at pumps and by not using debit cards. Instead use credit or gas cards.

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Most of the theft occurred in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys. "When we take these down, I.D. theft activity tends to go down in the region for a period of time," said Williams, who noted this ring was especially well-run and prolific. More than 15,000 accounts were compromised at 12 gas stations, resulting in more than $3 million lost. 78 identify-theft-related felony counts were filed against the suspects.