Madera County Sheriff John Anderson is issuing an alert to all Valley residents about a skimming operation that has already victimized more than 50 gas station customers just in Madera County alone.
The identity theft reportedly started a couple of months ago in Tulare, where a Shell station was hit. Then a skimming ring struck a Shell station in Fresno. Madera was the third county to get hit.
Authorities say it appears only one Shell station in Madera County was targeted -- located on Avenue 12 in Madera Ranchos -- where personal information was siphoned from unwitting drivers who gassed up between August 30 and September 10.
Since then, 27 victims have come forward. But a bank, also investigating fraudulent charges, reports that it discovered more than 50. All of these victims purchased gas at the Shell station in the Ranchos.
Sheriff Anderson says the only way cardholders learned they had fallen victim to fraud was after receiving a monthly statement, which showed major high-end dollar purchases in Southern California.
Unbeknownst to the filling station, someone successfully attached a skimmer around August 30 and removed that skimmer on September 10, investigators said.
In that period of time, those involved in the operation made off with thousands and thousands of dollars worth of merchandise purchased with the stolen credit card information.
But skimmers don't just pull numbers. They also swipe all confidential and personal data that belongs to your credit card.
The thieves are not only making off with high-end dollar items, they are also using that skimmed data to open their own accounts at the cardholder's expense.
No one was seen applying the skimmer.
Anyone who may have information about the skimming ring is urged to call the Madera County Sheriff's Office at (559) 675-7770 and Crime Stoppers at (559) 498-STOP. An anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers that leads to an arrest could be worth up to $1,000.
Sheriff Anderson urges consumers to do a credit check themselves. If fraud is discovered, they should report it immediately.
Consumers can do this by logging on to one of the following credit bureau agencies:
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