Police probe credit card scam

STEPHEN PULLINGER Police have swooped on a Yarmouth filling station in their investigation of a card skimming scam being linked to Sri Lankan criminal gangs.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Police have swooped on a Yarmouth filling station in their investigation of a card skimming scam being linked to Sri Lankan criminal gangs.

The Texaco Petrol Station, in St Nicholas Road, remained closed today following the raid on Wednesday during which police removed equipment to be examined and arrested one man on suspicion of fraud. The suspect was questioned at Yarmouth police station and later released on bail pending further inquiries.

Police launched their inquiry after 11 people came forward over a three-week period, reporting between £100 and £600 taken from their accounts in transactions carried out in Thailand. All had been customers at the petrol station and none had been to Thailand.

Skimming, which involves criminals using electronic devices to clone credit and debit cards, has become a lucrative scam netting an estimated £440m nationally in 2005.

Det Chief Insp Steve Strong, heading the inquiry, advised anyone who thinks they could have been a victim to check their bank statements, and said it was likely more cases would be brought to police attention.

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He said: “We are investigating possible links with Sri Lankan criminal gangs who have been actively operating in the London area and across the South-East. In those areas there have been lots of problems.”

The hi-tech card fraudsters had only become a noticeable problem in Norfolk in the past 12 months, but it was almost entirely focused on petrol stations - a similar inquiry had focused on the Jet Petrol Station in Northgate Street, Yarmouth, last year after 30 people reported money disappearing from their account.

Most cases of skimming involved cards being swiped a second time on special equipment, or the customer's pin being recorded on covert cameras.

Det Chief Insp Strong said: “My advice when paying for fuel is not to hand your card to anyone, but to place it in the machine yourself and to shield it with your hand when putting your pin number in.”