Madera County Sheriff John Anderson is issuing an alert about a skimming operation that has already victimized more than 50 gas station customers just in Madera County alone.
"That figure continues to grow as card holders discover fraudulent charges on their monthly statements," he said.
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 and now it has hit Madera.
Right now it appears only one Shell station has been targeted in Madera County, located on Avenue 12 in Madera Ranchos. Personal information was siphoned from drivers who gassed up between Aug. 30 and Sept. 10.
Since then, 27 victims have come forward. A bank, also investigating fraudulent charges, reports that it discovered more than 50. All of these victims purchased gas at the Shell Station in Madera Ranchos.
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 fillings station, someone successfully attached a skimmer around Aug. 30 and removed that skimmer on Sept. 10.
In that period of time, those involved in the operation made off with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise purchased with the stolen credit card information.
However, skimmers don't just pull numbers -- they also swipe all confidential and personal data that belongs to credit cards. Thieves are using that skimmed data to open their own accounts at the cardholder's expense.
No one was seen applying the skimmer, and it would be nearly impossible for a customer to know it was even there.
Anyone who may have information about the skimming ring is urged to not only call the Sheriff's office at (559) 675-7770, they can also call CRIME STOPPERS at 498-STOP. An anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers that leads to an arrest could be worth up to $1,000
Meantime Anderson urges consumers to do a credit check themselves; and if fraud is discovered, report it immediately.
Consumers can do this by logging on to one of the following Credit Bureau agencies:
Trans Union: transunion.com