Debit Card Rip-Off

Photo: Ben Skirvin

Photo: Ben Skirvin Source

Yesterday morning someone stole one of our debit card numbers and tried to run up over $850 in charges on our PayPal account.  Imagine my surprise to find messages from PayPal in my email with all these charges!  Especially since I knew the charges weren’t mine.  The card they were made on was my husband’s, and he was at work, not running up charges online.

Here are all the charges as they show on our PayPal account.  Not sure why some appear more than once.  PayPal is often a mystery to me.


So after the shock wore off and I could think straight, I called our bank.  The PayPal account is backed up by our checking account.  Since the first transaction wiped out the $94 balance I had in PayPal, all the charges should have gone directly to our bank.  Yet none of the charges had come through, they weren’t even pending.  Immediately I severed the link between the bank and PayPal.

Then I called PayPal and very quickly was connected with a helpful and sympathetic customer service person who canceled the card and the transactions.  They restored my $94 balance.  Phew!  Disaster averted, we hope.

Now comes the interesting part.  It just happens that my husband, Tim, never uses his PayPal debit card.  It’s been resting comfortably in his wallet for months.  For Christmas someone gave us a cash gift through PayPal.  On Monday, Tim decided to use the card at the local gas station.  He bought gasoline at the pump and also went in the store to pay for diesel for our tractor.  It surely is a lovely gift to have someone buy fuel for us!  We were very grateful.

We realized that since this card has not been used anywhere else, it may be possible to find the thief!  I called the local police today.  The gas pump receipt even gives the number of the pump used.  The police officer suspects someone placed a skimmer on the pump to steal credit card information.  Generally, people use their credit cards all over and it is hard to figure out where a theft occurred.  Luckily, Tim didn’t use his card anywhere else and we can pinpoint the theft to the gas station.

The police officer checked the gas pump and talked to the store owner.  There was no skimmer evident today.  But the card information was swiped Monday and the thefts happened yesterday.  Plenty of time for the thief to remove the evidence.  Tim said he didn’t see anything unusual about the card reader when he paid at the pump.  You insert the card into the pump to pay, there is nothing sticking out.  I’m not sure how the skimmer would work.  Maybe it just has to be in the proximity?  Tim’s debit card is the old kind without a chip, so I’m not sure how this skimming could have happened.

Now the police are going to subpoena the Galls and WalMart transaction records to try and find the individual who ran the charges.  The thefts were likely made online.  How this scam could work, I don’t know.  If you make an online purchase, the merchandise is not shipped until the charges clear and the items have to be sent to an address.  If the transaction is canceled, the item never ships.  Perhaps the thief hopes the activity won’t be caught until after shipment.

Maybe the police will work with the merchants to send something and try to catch anyone who collects the shipment.  That would be great!  Then the thief will be reading a sign like the one at the top of this post.  “Go to Jail, go directly to Jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.”

If only people spent their energy getting and holding jobs instead of finding ways to rip others off.  Then they would have legitimate money of their own to spend.




6 thoughts on “Debit Card Rip-Off

  1. Wow! I saw a segment on a news feature one night about these skimmers. The device is hidden inside the pump, up under the exterior cover. There are videos on YouTube. Glad you caught it quick!

  2. Hmm, very interesting. The policeman said since the gas station started closing at night it is at more of a risk for skimmers. Makes me think I should make all the purchases inside. Paying at the pump is so convenient–for thieves, too apparently.

    • Yes, paying inside rather than at the pump is what was advised on the segment, especially if the pump isn’t in a very public, busy place.

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