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Citibank seeking answers in debit card scam

Citibank checking account members who use the branch in Bayside are still frustrated over an ongoing scam that has robbed them of thousands of dollars.

Four account members who use the bank branch at 39-01 Bell Blvd. have alerted TimesLedger Newspapers in the last two weeks that they discovered that someone had been using their accounts to make huge purchases of gas from a Shell gas station on 185-25 N. Conduit Ave.

One victim, who asked not to have her name disclosed, said she lost $90 a day from May 13 to May 28 and was eventually charged $5,000 in overdraft fees when her account was depleted.

"I never use my card except to cash my check," Victim No. 1 said.

The victim said the last purchase took place at an Amoco gas station in Brooklyn.

A spokesman for Citibank said the financial institution's fraud division has been looking into the scheme, but so far has not determined who is behind it or how the person or people involved got access to the accounts.

"We want our customers to know that, consistent with legal requirements, we do not hold them responsible for fraudulent activity in their accounts," Luis Rosero, Citibank vice president of public affairs, said in an e-mailed statement.

A spokeswoman for Shell said the gasoline marketed investigated the situation after TimesLedger brought it to the company's attention and "found no evidence of fraud at this specific site." The spokeswoman added that the station has a security feature called "Zip In, Zip Out" that requires card users to put in the zip code on the card's billing address for verification purposes.

The manager of the Springfield Gardens gas station where almost all of the purchases took place did not return calls for comment.

Another victim told TimesLedger two weeks ago that a Citibank representative at the Bell Boulevard branch informed her that at least five other checking account users also had gas purchases made at the Shell station. The second victim, who also asked not to be named, said she thinks the scam may be an inside job since account holders have to use their debit cards in the small machines at teller windows to cash checks.

"You have to insert your card and they ask for your pin number," Victim No. 2 said. "Someone there must be stealing the information."

Anyone who thinks they are a victim 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 ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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