The total loss was expected to balloon as authorities investigated the other 131 cards.
“We have losses in the tens of thousands, if not in the hundreds of thousands,” he said.
The discovery might not have happened had police, while helping the motorists exchange information at the scene of the crash, discovered that Hovhannisyan, a cab driver, had allowed his car’s registration to expire six months ago. While preparing the car to be impounded, an officer keeping inventory of the car’s items found a counterfeit identification card, standard gray cards with a black magnetic strips, and gift cards from Visa, MasterCard and American Express inside, Magtoto said.
The magnetic strips on the back of the cards were re-encoded with people’s credit card account information taken mostly from gasoline card companies, such as Shell and Unocal, and Visa cards, he said. Thieves can use the gift cards without showing identification, an ID and can use it as often as they want, wiping out a person’s bank account or max out credit limits.
“It’s quite possible these cards are being sold because they have some value with the purchase of gas,” he said, adding that gas prices are on the rise.
Hovhannisyan was booked on suspicion of identity theft and using a person’s account information without permission.
Since each card was encoded with a person’s account information, detectives on Wednesday were scanning each card to determine who the account holder was, Magtoto said.
They began calling victims and getting information on whether they knew who stole their accounts information.
Some of the victims were from Sacramento, Pomona and Costa Mesa, he said. Police were still trying to determine Wednesday if any victims lived in Glendale.
The cards were likely being used in the Glendale and Los Angeles area, Magtoto said.