A credit card skimmer installed on gas pump number six at Ozzie’s General Market, 9980 Central Avenue, has victimized some Fulton County residents.
Aaron Gladieux, a detective with the Fulton County Sheriff Department, said Monday, Jan. 29, three Fulton County residents had filed complaints of suspicious transactions on their debit card accounts starting Tuesday, Jan. 16.
Anita Lopez, Lucas County auditor, said the gas station/convenience store is near the Fulton-Lucas County Line (approximately five miles east of Fulton Co. Rd. 1) on US 20, “so we had victims from Fulton and Lucas counties.”
As county auditor, Lopez has jurisdiction over gas pumps in Lucas County.
“What is exciting is… Detective Gladieux immediately requested video surveillance of where the suspects went after getting a citizen’s information from the skimmer,” Lopez said.
“So he tracked down their (the thieves) whereabouts based on where they had tried to use the debit cards after the fact.”
Fulton County is working with Lucas County and the Toledo Police Department on the case.
Lopez said the thieves went to three Walmart discount stores. After the news broke in the regional press, more victims came forward, and the same group of thieves were tracked to Kroger supermarkets.
When victims look at their debit card transactions, they see multiple attempts or successful purchases at Walmart or Kroger.
“They (the thieves) usually try to deplete the account as much as they can,” Lopez said.
“So they’ll do $40 at a time, and they’ll hit it again for $40 and hit it again for $40. They’ll keep trying until the card is declined.”
The thieves will purchase cartons of cigarettes or debit or gift cards– items they can resell for cash.
While the Walmart transactions were for $40, Lopez said the Kroger transactions were different.
“The gentlemen that were hitting Kroger, they had transactions of $90, $95, $94, $74,” she said.
Skimmers work by recording a person’s debit card information and pin number whenever debit cards are inserted into the card readers on gas pumps or other devices.
They can be simply attached over the top of the card slot in the pumps, where they appear to be simply part of the devices.
Thieves return later and retrieve the information.
Other skimmers are placed inside the pumps themselves.
Lopez said the keys to get into the inner workings of a gas pump are universal.
When the skimmer problem surfaced, Lopez said Lucas County officials tried to change the locks on every gas pump in the county.
Once thieves have a debit card number and personal identification number, they make a duplicate card; then make purchases with it. The money is transferred out of the victim’s account.
Debit and credit cards now have a small electronic chip embedded in the card. The chip, Lopez said, provides more protection for the consumer than the magnetic strip on the back.
However, Lopez said the gas station industry received an extension of the deadline to change from card-swipe readers to chip readers until the end of 2019.
“Until all the gas stations convert over to the chip, we’re still going to have this problem,” she said.
What makes this case different is video.
“We were able to get clear images of the suspects,” she said, adding, “We were actually able to get a license plate.
“I can’t wait to follow up with the investigators. We don’t want to mess up their investigation, but we have images, we have the license plate, and we have the vehicle they were using,” Lopez said.
Dave Carter, a detective lieutenant with the Lucas County Sheriff Department, was more low-key.
“We have some pictures that may or may not be the suspects. There are no dead-solid leads,” he said.
Gas pump skimmer cases are hard to solve.
“Not impossible, but they’re one of the harder crimes,” Carter said.