Card cloners hit hundreds on forecourts
It is understood that two senior police officers are among those who have fallen victim to the fraudsters in recent weeks.
Detectives are investigating whether bogus workers have fitted "skimming" devices to copy bank card details before
selling them over the internet to criminals.
Devices have been attached to the chip-and-pin terminals inside garage shops, as well as ATMs outside, with withdrawals then being made across the world, including Australia and Canada.
A police spokesman said although money had been coming out of people's accounts during recent weeks, their cards would have been scanned months ago.
He said: "The information has been obtained some time ago, but is only being used now in Australia and Canada.
"Retailers need to be vigilant and I would ask them to know their customer, know their staff."
Fraud squad officers were first alerted to the problem two months ago when customers using the Shell garage in Mayfield Road, Easthouses, near Dalkeith, reported cash going missing.
Days later, customers who had been at the Shell petrol stations in Crewe Toll and Craigleith Road began reporting stolen money.
Now users of the forecourt ATMs at the Shell garages beside the Lizzie Brice roundabout on the A71 and next to St John's Hospital in Livingston have been hit, with the number of victims stretching into the hundreds.
Cheryl Moir, 35, from East Calder, a sales manager at Deer Park Golf and Country Club, had 331 stolen from her father's account in Australia after using the Lizzie Brice ATM.
She said: "I was told by my bank the details were copied through this magnetic skimming machine and sold on the internet.
"It's appalling and disgusting. These people have no conscience.
"I received a letter from the bank's fraud department asking if I'd been in Australia lately, which I hadn't. Whoever stole the money tried to take another 212 and 214, but the bank managed to stop those withdrawals.
"I never use my dad's card over the internet, it's always at a machine whenever I need to take out money for him, and I always get a receipt."
The fraud works when drivers make payments and the magnetic strip on their card is digitally copied by the skimmer. They also need to be watched – or filmed – entering their pin numbers.
Several banks, including the Royal Bank and Bank of Scotland, are investigating the overseas withdrawal of money from accounts. Many of the attempted withdrawals have been stopped by suspicious bank staff.
Mark Bowerman, spokesman for the bank trade association Apacs, said: "Typically, the fraudsters will copy the magnetic strip on the back of cards and then use mini-cameras to gain pin numbers."
He added that the cloned strips were used overseas because the UK's chip-and-pin system made them unusable here.
A Shell spokeswoman said: "Shell has been supportive of the police, Apacs and the card service provider in their ongoing investigations into this serious form of organised crime and identity theft."
Bank trade association Apacs suggests these simple steps to avoid being a victim of card fraud.
Shield the keypad with your free hand whenever you are typing in your pin number.
Regularly check your credit card and bank statements. If you spot any unfamiliar transactions, contact your bank as soon as possible.
When buying over the Internet, make sure you have up-to-date antivirus software.
Only shop on reputable websites.