MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new sophisticated method of identity theft has police asking all of us to beware.

Last week, police arrested 29-year-old Sarkis Mkhsyan and 28-year-old Gohar Yesayan.

The husband and wife have been charged with ID theft after targeting nearly 100 gas stations in the metro.

Police say the couple used a highly sophisticated skimming device that’s popping up at gas stations across the country.

“It’s just so much hassle — and you feel so violated,” said Nancy Aleshire.

She has had her credit and debit card information stolen on three separate occasions.

The latest happened a month ago. Someone got her credit card number and nearly maxed out her card.

“How did they get access to my checking account and what more do they know about me,” she said.

Aleshire has no idea how her personal information was stolen. But police are warning people about a new trend surfacing in the Twin Cities.

And anyone who pays at the gas pump is vulnerable.

“A very scary thing to have happen in this day and age with privacy — you wonder how private is it,” Dave Johnson said.

He’s the owner of Herb’s Service Center in Plymouth.

One of his gas pumps was targeted. Someone unlocked the panel on the pump and installed a high-tech credit card skimming device.

“You really don’t know it’s there,” he said. “It’s physically impossible to know it’s there.”

Customers couldn’t see it but the fuel company detected something wrong with it’s machine and Johnson contacted police.

“Been in business, many, many years, never had anything like this happen before,” he said.

Police found the skimmers at one other gas station in town and believe there could be many others.

“Just the sheer number of people calling, victims and how quickly the card numbers are reused, typically it can be as quickly as a day,” said Detective Darren McGann.

Police ask if you visited the Herb’s Service Center Shell station, 17435 County Road 6 in Plymouth or the Shell Perfect Car Wash, 9400 36th Ave. N. in New Hope and think you may be a victim of credit card theft to contact them.

Detective McGann can be contacted with questions at dmcgann@plymouthmn.gov or 763-509-5161.

A couple of things you can do to protect yourself:

— Use your credit card, not your debit card because it’s easier for credit card companies to stop those transactions. When the money leaves your debit card, it’s a lot harder to get back.

— Check your statements regularly. Nancy does it every day now.

— Go inside the gas station to pay if you are worried about paying at the pump.

The owner of one Shell station installed high security locks on its panels — that keys aren’t available for — and seals, so if someone tries to get in, the gas station is notified immediately.

He said a lot of gas stations are catching on and doing this, as well.


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