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    California Gas Customers Report Stolen Funds

    Debit card and PIN numbers captured to create fake cards, with more than $100,000 stolen to date.

    COSTA MESA, Calif. -- More than 440 people who used debit cards to pay for gasoline at two Costa Mesa, Calif. service stations reported funds stolen from their accounts in Las Vegas, said Sgt. Martin Carver, a spokesman for the Costa Mesa Police Department in a report by The Los Angeles Times.

    Debit card information and personal identification numbers captured the week of Sept. 29 to Oct. 8 were used to create fake cards and withdraw cash from ATMs at casinos in Las Vegas, Carver said in the report.

    To date, he said, more than $100,000 has been reported stolen. Investigating the thefts are the Secret Service, which enters cases involving large credit card fraud, and the Las Vegas and Costa Mesa police departments, according to The LA Times.

    "We don't know how it was done," said Carver in the report, "but we started getting people coming in to file reports when their bank statements showed the card was used to withdraw cash in Las Vegas."

    He said the thieves may have added devices to the ATMs during the night when the stations were closed. Police did not identify the stations or their locations.

    Victims began calling police Oct. 31 and at least 16 people have filed reports at the Costa Mesa police station, while the rest reported the losses to eight banks, the report stated. However, Carver said the number of victims was expected to increase.

    The theft was not unprecedented, authorities said: This summer eight people were arrested in an elaborate scheme to steal more than $1 million by skimming account information from the debit cards of dozens of customers at three Southern California restaurants, said the report.

    In that case, restaurant employees used special devices to steal account information from patrons' Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual debit cards, authorities said. Additionally, the employees reportedly passed the information to two alleged ringleaders in exchange for about $200 per card skimmed.

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