Here’s a case that hits close to home for many Americans.
In Los Angeles, prosecutors charged Albert Jose Gonzalez, 39, of Lancaster, Josue Gustavo Albizuras, 42, of Los Angeles, and Cesar Vasquez Echeverria, 28, of Santa Clarita with two dozen criminal charges including felony identity theft for allegedly taking $2 million by using card skimming devices at gas pumps.
The suspects are accused of building or buying skimming devices, which record credit card information as the card is swiped, and installing them into gas pumps at more than 12 gas stations in L.A. County, according to Lt. Ron Williams of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, which was part of a task force that investigated the case.
The defendants would then download the information onto gift debit cards. Police also confiscated $40,000 in cash. bluetooth-equipped skimming devices, hundreds of counterfeit credit cards, cell phones, computers, and luxury vehicles including a new Porsche and a Ferrari.
The task force started their investigation after a surge of identity theft related crimes.
How To Protect Yourself From This Type of Identity Theft
One of the weaknesses in placing fraud alerts and credit freezes is it can’t prevent this kind of identity theft. These criminals were using technology to duplicate your debit and credit cards. The only way to prevent this from happening to you is to use cash at the pump. Unfortunately carrying around large amounts of cash isn’t very practical for many people and as we move towards a cashless society, this is something that we have to be constantly on guard for.
No protection service on the market can detect what appears to be completely legitimate withdrawals from your existing accounts. However, a comprehensive identity theft insurance policy will cover deductibles and all or some of any incurred financial loss.
These thieves have your PIN number and have duplicated your card. The only way to minimize the damage is to detect the theft in the first place. Here are five ways things every person should be doing:
- Review bank and card statements regularly
Look over your statement carefully and contact your financial institution immediately if you see an unauthorized withdrawal or charge on your account.
- Order your free annual copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus
By federal law, credit bureaus have to provide free copies of credit reports annually.
- If possible, use credit cards instead of your debit card to pay for gas
Although some gas stations only accept debit cards, you may want to rethink where you pump gas. If identity thieves get their hands on your PIN, you are giving them potential access to your life’s savings. Credit card companies have well established fraud policies that in most cases, limit your liability.
- Think about getting some form of identity theft protection
There are many services that provide consumers with comprehensive identity theft insurance policies as well as sophisticated credit file monitoring. You can read our article on what we think the best identity theft protection is and why.