Operation Take Back the Pumps is a collaborative effort by Ventura County law enforcement agencies, businesses, and Federal agencies to combat credit/debit card fraud and identity theft facilitated through the illegal use of credit card skimming devices placed on gasoline/fuel pumps.
Identity theft is a national problem that is significantly affecting citizens in Ventura County. One way thieves are obtaining victim’s credit and debit card information is through the use of illegal card skimming devices being surreptitiously placed in fuel pumps. When an unsuspecting customer swipes their debit or credit card into the pay station on the fuel pump, these illegal devices capture the card and pin information. The thieves then use this stolen information to commit identity theft and other fraud related crimes. Losses from a single illegal skimming device on a fuel pump usually averages between $50,000 and $100,000.
Operation Take Back the Pumps consists of multiple phases designed to combat identity theft perpetuated by the use of illegal card skimming devices on fuel pumps. The phases consists of training law enforcement and gasoline station personnel on prevention methods and the identification/detection of illegal skimming devices; Programs that promote regular inspections of the pumps for tampering and/or illegal card skimming devices, if the agency should decide; And finally, education of the public on practices that will help keep them from becoming victims of identity theft.
Operation Take Back the Pumps was coordinated by the Moorpark Police Department and launched on August 13, 2015, beginning with a joint effort by all of the involved agencies/businesses coming together in an attempt to inspect all fuel pumps in Ventura County. This proved to be successful as 1,512 fuel pumps were inspected and three (3) illegal skimming devices were discovered and removed. These devices will be used as evidence in an attempt to identify and prosecute the suspect(s) responsible for these crimes.
The following is a breakdown by city of pumps inspected and the number of illegal card skimming devices found:
City of Camarillo - 155 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Fillmore - 76 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Moorpark - 72 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Ojai - 44 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Oxnard - 335 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Port Hueneme - 8 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Santa Paula - 42 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Simi Valley - 173 pumps inspected and no devices found
City of Thousand Oaks - 272 pumps inspected and three (3) devices found
City of Ventura – 335 pumps inspected and no devices found
Law enforcement and participants in this operation encourage the public to consider the following steps when purchasing fuel. Following these steps will significantly reduce the risk of being victimized by identity thieves.
- Pay with cash whenever possible.
- If paying with a credit/debit card, go inside the gas station instead of paying at the pump.
- Look for security seals/stickers on fuel pumps. If the seals/stickers are broken, cut or read “VOID,” do not use that pump and immediately report your observations to gas station personnel
Source of Release: Ventura County Sheriff's Office