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Costa Mesa Arco struck

Customers who used their cards at the station on July 8 and 10 reported money was missing from their accounts Friday.

July 18, 2007|By Kelly Strodl

When John Collett approached the Arco quick-pay kiosk at Fair Drive and Fairview Road on July 10, he noticed a bright yellow sticker that read "Security Against Fraud Enhancements" on a faceplate and thought, "Thank God that they've actually updated the security systems."

So, Collett said, it was ironic when he attempted to get funds from an ATM for cab fare to the airport this weekend while on a trip to Chicago and found his account overdrawn by $91.

"In my mind I was glad they were actually paying attention to this stuff," Collett said.

And his is just one of the reports flooding into the Costa Mesa Police Department concerning fraudulent card use in connection with the Arco station.

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Since late Monday afternoon, police have received nearly a dozen reports of fraudulent withdrawals. Police and bank investigators found customers used their cards at the Arco on July 8 and 10, and thieves began taking out money on Friday.

The thieves place devices on the debit card payment machines, capture card information and personalized identification numbers, then produce phony cards to withdraw money.

Collett was victimized by two withdrawals from his account, one for $700 from an ATM in Los Angeles and another for $360 in Buena Park, he said.

When Collett read an article in the Daily Pilot's Tuesday edition with a photo of the devices used in recent thefts at Huntington Beach Arcos, he immediately recognized the equipment.

Before going to police, Collett returned to the station and checked the debit machine, finding the phony faceplate with the S.A.F.E. sticker removed, he said.

"This isn't some kind of isolated problem," Collett said, referring to similar crimes in Costa Mesa in October and April. "They're obviously not checking [the machines regularly] because it happened again.

"In my opinion they need to shut those things down until they can rectify the problem."

Costa Mesa resident Cathy Corcoran received a call from her credit union about three $500 withdrawals, on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday morning.

"It's like somebody invading your privacy. It's scary," she said.

John Rouse tries to steer clear of Arcos after hearing a friend was victimized in the Huntington Beach ID thefts.

"I've been trying to avoid Arcos the last couple of months," Rouse said, while pumping fuel at the Arco on Fair Drive. "I wouldn't have come here if I didn't have but five miles' worth of gas in my tank."

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