ORLANDO, Fla. – News 6 anchor Julie Broughton said she was stunned when she saw 17 debit card transactions for more than $1,600 listed on her January bank statement.
“There are places I haven’t heard of,” she told News 6. “The charges go back to Nov. 20.”
Her bank records show a string of purchases at various Central Florida convenience stores and gas stations, including nine 7-Eleven locations, two Chevron gas stations, two Wawa locations, along with locations at ExxonMobil, Shiv Trading INC. and two 76 gas stations.
The purchases were made between Nov. 20, 2020, and Jan. 6, 2021.
[NEWS 6 INVESTIGATES: Secret Service, News 6 launch investigation into elaborate unemployment scheme | Woman loses $100,000 to online romance conman | HOA charged family $927 for leaving trash on curb too long]
Broughton, a popular Central Florida TV news and weather personality, admits she was lax about checking her bank account over the holidays.
“I think it was Jan. 8th that I noticed the charges,” she recalled.
The purchases ranged from $70 to $100, with the average purchase at $90 per location.
When she challenged the purchases with her bank, she was surprised to learn all 17 transactions “passed fraud analysis” because her debit card was never stolen and each purchase was made with her Personal Identification Number (PIN).
“It was mind-boggling,” Broughton said. “I thought, ‘My gosh, I’m never going to see this money again.’”
News 6 contacted the Orlando Secret Service and presented Broughton’s debit card number to agents.
It turns out her card was one of 235 debit and credit cards stolen by thieves who had installed a hidden pin hole camera and skimmer into a convenience store gas pump.
Based on the purchase records, it appears Broughton’s data may have been stolen in November.
Special Agent in Charge Caroline O’Brien-Buster said the purchases point to black market diesel fuel sales.
“It was obvious to us that someone is using this for diesel fuel,” O’Brien-Buster said. “Here in Florida, it’s very prevalent. Across the country, it is huge.”
O’Brien-Buster said once the cards are “encoded,” they “hand off the data” to a second party who goes on a diesel fuel buying spree.
The fuel is sold at a discount and since they are using someone else’s money, it is all profit for the thieves.
Senior Agent Roger Fuentes has been tracking skimmer operations across the state.
Fuentes told News 6 the thieves use Bluetooth technology to access your data, transfer it to any card with a magnetic strip and spend your money as if it were their own.
“So, once your card slides through, it will look like a normal purchase,” Fuentes said. “Once they have access to your PIN, they have access to your whole account.”
The Secret Service members presented their findings to Broughton’s bank and, once management reviewed the evidence the stolen, $1,600 was deposited in her bank account.
“You got results, “a relieved Broughton said. ”But what I think about, though, is all the people who don’t sit across the room from Mike Holfeld. Within a couple days, my money was back.”
If you think your debit or credit card has been compromised, the Secret Service urges consumers to cancel their account, replace the card and report the fraud to your bank immediately.
If you have a money or unemployment issue, email News 6 Investigator Mike Holfeld firstname.lastname@example.org.