Thief steals woman's debit card info then buys pot

Posted at 10:23 PM, Oct 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-05 01:23:56-04

A La Mesa woman says she had her entire bank account drained from one trip to the gas station. 

She claims the scammer who ripped her off used her money at marijuana dispensaries.

The victim believes the thieves stole her debit card number when she swiped it at a pump at Emerald Oil on Lake Murray Boulevard and Baltimore Drive.   

The scam, called skimming, occurs when thieves steal credit information by secretly installing a small electronic device to the pump that scans and stores card data from the magnetic strip. 

It tends to happen at gas stations, bars and restaurants.  

"You're telling me this and I'm stunned,” said La Mesa resident Andy Sullivan.

Sullivan gasses up at Emerald Oil once or twice a week. She and others 10News spoke to have never heard of skimming and have never had problems after using their credit cards or debit cards at the pump.

"I never knew,” said North Park resident Michael Holmberg.

They were surprised to find out another customer posted online that she had her entire account drained by a thief. She believes the thief somehow obtained her credit card information using a device at the pump where she paid. She claims the thief used her money at marijuana dispensaries.   

"Oh my god. Shocked,” said Sullivan.

"That's crazy. Oh my god,” said Holmberg.

The victim warned her neighbors about the scam on 

"I'm sorry to hear that this has happened to her,” said Emerald Oil owner David Hallak. 

Hallak has been in business for more than 15 years.

"I think it has happened maybe a few times,” said Hallak. 

He hasn't heard from this latest victim. But he's well aware skimming is prevalent. That's why he has someone inspect the pumps once a week. 

“We have taken out devices unfamiliar to us and they were not supposed to be there,” said Hallak.  “I would advise the customer if they are feeling uncomfortable using them outside to come inside to utilize the register in here.

"Yes I will do it inside the store now more,” said Holmberg.

“Definitely, I will do that,” said Sullivan.

Hallak advises it’s even better to pay with cash because gas is cheaper.

If you see fraudulent charges on your account and believe you’re a victim of skimming, call police and file a report. Then, call your bank. Most banks would not hold you liable for your losses if you report it early enough.  It’s also a good idea to call and alert the business where the crime occurred. And lastly, call and alert the credit agencies.