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Citibank is investigating a financial scam involving at least eight Queens checking account users who bank at the Bayside branch and someone who has been using their debit cards repeatedly at a Springfield Gardens gas station.
From at least May 9 to May 13, three of the victims said there had been gas purchases in amounts ranging from $30 to $95 at the Shell station at 185-25 N. Conduit Ave. deducted from their accounts. The victims, who asked not to be identified, said they were stunned when they checked their balances because they had never bought gas at the station.
"I was shocked. I asked myself, 'Did I make a mistake with my checkbook?'" said Victim No. 1, who alerted the Citibank branch at 39-01 Bell Blvd. in Bayside last week.
The account user, who lost nearly $800 in checking account funds to the fraudulent purchases, said a bank representative told her at least seven other people who use the same branch also found that their checking account funds were being used to purchase gas at the same station.
One of the other victims told TimesLedger she was notified about the scam in a letter from Citibank Monday, but was taken aback because her Citibank account is not her main checking account.
"I have no idea how it happened," Victim No. 2 said. "I never use my card and I don't give my number out to anyone."
Luis Rosero, vice president of public affairs for Citibank, said the corporation's fraud division was investigating the incidents, but it did not have any information on who is responsible.
"We want our customers to know that consistent with legal requirements, we do not hold them responsible for fraudulent activity in their accounts," Rosero wrote in an e-mailed statement.
A Shell spokesman said the gasoline marketer would look into the case, but was unable to give further details by press time. The manager of the Springfield Gardens station was unavailable for comment.
The Queens district attorney's office had no comment and the state Banking Department could not be reached.
Victim No. 1 said the bank has been very cooperative in trying to resolve the bogus transactions. Although the victim had to close her checking account and open a new one, Citibank reimbursed some of the lost money over the weekend.
"The people at the bank were very nice to deal with and very professional," Victim No. 1 said.
Not everyone was lucky, however. Another victim, who does not even own a car, said he was asked to write a letter to Citibank because he has direct deposit. The financial giant said it would refund the approximately $500 that was stolen from his account for the gas in 10 days to 90 days after Citibank got the letter.
The victim said his account may get hit with more fraudulent purchases since it takes time for gas sales to be listed on a balance.
"Knowing that I have direct deposit, I fear the outcome of what's going to happen," Victim No. 3 said.
Anyone who thinks they are victims of this scam or has any information is urged to call Citibank at 1-800-647-5344.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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