Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Debit card scam drains dozens of bank accounts

By ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News & KING5.com Staff

PUYALLUP, Wash. – Dozens of victims have come forward after their bank accounts were drained by thieves.

At least 75 people fell victim to a scam by simply using their debit card at a Puyallup gas station and detectives expect many more reports to come in.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, a highly organized group using stolen debit card information withdrew thousands of dollars from Pierce County citizens' bank accounts.

The information was obtained by using electronic skimming machines placed on gas pumps at the ARCO gas Station at 11608 Meridian on Puyallup's South Hill.

Detectives believe the information was stolen in August 2007.

Almost a year later, the information was used at multiple banks to withdraw thousand of dollars from each account. This was done over the three-day weekend to avoid detection.

The card numbers and pins were trapped and stolen at the station and were used at ATMs throughout the King County area.

Most card loses are around $1,200, but some are much higher – up to $4,000, depending on account balance or overdraft rules.

Rhonda Hopkins first noticed the activity during the Fourth of July weekend.

"We pulled up our banking online and realized there were numerous withdrawals out of both our checking and our savings," she said.

The thieves stole $3,800 from her accounts.

"When we went to the bank to close out our account, there were three other people waiting to close their accounts because the same thing had happened," she said.

If anyone has used that ARCO station during that time frame, they should contact their financial institution and get a new card issued.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information leading to the identification and arrest of the suspects involved. Crime Stoppers 253-591-5959

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