Illegal Gas Station Skimming Empties Your Credit Card And Bank Accounts As You Fill Your Tank

August 27, 2012

NEW YORK - MAY 28:  An NYPD officer keep watch...

You're on your way to work or vacation and, damn, the ol' gas guzzler is wheezin' near empty, so you pull into an Exxon or BP gas station, or maybe you've got one of those smartphone apps that points you to the nearest cheapo gas station.

You sure ain't happy. Price of gas is too high as it is.  Oh well, another tank and another paycheck, you mumble as you swipe your credit card and feel the very life blood ooze from you.  Hopefully, there's enough credit left on your American Express card - and, if not, maybe you can tap into the back-up Visa or Credit One but, hmmm, is there any reserve left on those?

Now, lemme add some salt to those wounds - or, more aptly, let's pour some sugar into the open gas tank.

A few years back in 2008, just around the time that the the Great Recession began to darken out doors, federal prosecutors allege that co-conspirators Boris Toumasian, 25, of Glendale, CA, Edmond Alexanyan, and Karen Khalatyan hatched a scheme.  Toumasian, who worked at a Alpharetta, GA BP gas station, installed a skimming device that recorded the credit and debit card numbers of at least 175 customers  and the personal identification numbers ("PINs"), and that data was transferred by the conspirators to the magnetic stripes on American Express gift cards. The altered American Express gift cards were then used to withdraw money at ATM's from the victims' bank accounts and to purchase electronics at stores.

On December 10, 2008, law enforcement officers executed search warrants at two Alpharetta apartments where Toumasian lived and found

  • over 44 gift cards fraudulently encoded with credit and debit card information,
  • over $50,000 cash all in $20 bills,
  • skimming devices used to collect card data,
  • a laptop computer with stolen account information,
  • false fronts for ATMs and gas station pumps,
  • a device used to encode cards with account information, and
  • a pinhole camera used to video customers entering their PINs.

On July 7, 2010, Toumasian, Alexanyan and Khalatyan were indicted, but the latter two remain fugitives. On October 11, 2011, Toumasian pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, credit card fraud, and aggravated identity theft; and, on August 24, 2012, he was sentenced to five years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $86,612.73 restitution.

Bill Singer's Comment

There was a time when you went to the gas station, paid a few cents a gallon, and they gave you free glasses or a tiger's tale to attach to your exhaust pipe.  Those days are long gone. Along with the free toasters and calendars from the bank.  Now, not only do the take your money but they also take your personal identification and keep on taking from you, long after your purchase is concluded.

"Street Sweeper" has reported about many scams to separate you and your hard-earned case via credit card fraud and other similar schemes.  READ some of these recent columns:

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