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Arrest made in Butte ATM card deductions

By Daniel Witter/Appeal-Democrat

A Yuba City man suspected of making unauthorized deductions from unsuspecting ATM card holders was arrested by Butte County law-enforcement officers Wednesday.

Jaspal Singh, 19, a clerk at Fastrack Mini Market on Highway 99 in Gridley, was arrested there on suspicion of identify theft and theft by use of a debit or credit card. He was booked into the Butte County Jail with bail set at $200,000.

The Biggs-Gridley Police Department has identified 14 alleged victims so far and there may be more, said Lt. Brian Cook.

“We're going to try to identify victims,” he said. “We need help from the public.”

Evidence gathered from Singh's residence and vehicle included 76 credit card numbers, statements and a laptop computer, said Cook.

Anyone who spots unauthorized deductions from their accounts in the Biggs-Gridley area from Fastrack or other businesses should contact police at 846-5678.

There are no other suspects at this time, but the investigation is continuing. The owners of Fastrack are cooperating with investigators, according to the Police Department.

The arrest came a day after the Yuba County Sheriff's Department and the Marysville Police Department said they have received more than a dozen reports of unauthorized deductions from debit card accounts at gas stations.

Those victims reportedly lost thousands of dollars, according to Detective Sgt. Mark Cummings of the Marysville Police Department.

The Gridley and Yuba County cases are not related, Cook said.

Yuba County law-enforcement officials are urging people with debit card accounts to check their statements and report any unauthorized deductions to their local law-enforcement agency. Butte County law-enforcement officials are delivering the same message.

“Identity theft is very common these days,” Cook said. “It's everywhere.”

Jos Van Hout, an economics-crime investigator with the Butte County District Attorney's Office, said identify theft is “becoming more of an epidemic. Everybody has a credit card. Everybody has multiple credit cards.”

Seventy-three percent of identity thefts arise from criminals taking over credit card or debit card accounts.

“Pay by cash,” he said.

If that isn't feasible, he recommended that cardholders walk their cards up to the cash register and watch as clerks enter them into the system. The swipe units should be connected to the cash register, he said.

“You don't want to have any hand-held units or anything that is portable,” he said.

Another thing people can do when making purchases online is to use a credit card with a low spending limit, such as a $500 maximum. Criminals are more likely to pass on these types of accounts because they want more money, he said.

“It limits the exposure you have that the banks and merchants are (ultimately) responsible for,” Van Hout said.

Appeal-Democrat reporter Daniel Witter can be reached at 749-4712. You may e-mail him at dwitter@appeal-democrat.com.

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