|A number of cases of identity theft have been traced to the Shell gas station on Antelope Road.|
According to Investigator Phillip Pico, the department is investigating five reported incidents. Many more than that have been reported unofficially to Menifee 24/7 by residents who said they have seen as much as $700 charged on their credit cards after using automatic payment machines at the Shell station, both at the pump and inside the convenience store.
Pico reaffirmed what residents have told Menifee 24/7 -- that all of the transactions with the stolen credit card information were made in the Studio City area. Many customers say they are working with their financial institution for reimbursement. Some have had to cancel their cards and get new ones because of the fraud.
"Once the missing funds have been returned to their account, they rarely report the incident to their local PD," Pico said about other victims who have not reported such incidents to his office. "This may account for the numerous complaints made online and lack of official reports to law enforcement. Or, the complaints have been made to other agencies."
Pico said he has interviewed the manager and area manager of Shell and that they are "working diligently" with authorities to identify the problem.
"As this is an ongoing investigation, I would be remiss to lay blame on this facility," he said.
A manager of the local Shell station did not respond to the request for an interview.
Pico said the complaints have been forwarded to the North Hollywood Division for follow-up investigation on that end.
"There are a variety of ways a credit card number is stolen," Pico said. "Low tech methods, such as stealing mail, looking over one’s shoulder while engaging in a transaction, etc., to the high-tech. I investigated a case wherein the point-of-sale device inside a major chain was replaced with one the suspects used to harvest card and PIN numbers.
"Consumers should be reminded this type of incident can occur wherever they shop. They should be mindful to check their accounts on a regular basis for suspicious activity."
Pico said several of the victims have been reimbursed.
More information can be gleaned from the Sheriff’s website on identity theft. Those who have information to report should call the Riverside Sheriff's Department at 951-210-1051.