Posts Tagged: pump skimmers


2
Dec 16

Visa Delays Chip Deadline for Pumps To 2020

Visa this week delayed by three years a deadline for fuel station owners to install payment terminals at the pump that are capable of handling more secure chip-based cards. Experts say the new deadline — extended from 2017 — comes amid a huge spike in fuel pump skimming, and means fraudsters will have another three years to fleece banks and their customers by installing card-skimming devices at the pump.

Until this week, fuel station owners in the United States had until October 1, 2017 to install chip-capable readers at their pumps. Under previous Visa rules, station owners that didn’t have chip-ready readers in place by then would have been on the hook to absorb 100 percent of the costs of fraud associated with transactions in which the customer presented a chip-based card yet was not asked or able to dip the chip (currently, card-issuing banks eat most of the fraud costs from fuel skimming). The chip card technology standard, also known as EMV (short for Europay, MasterCard and Visa) makes credit and debit cards far more expensive and difficult for thieves to clone.

This week, however, Visa said fuel station owners would have until October 1, 2020 to meet the liability shift deadline.

A Bluetooth-based pump card skimmer found inside of a Food N Things pump in Arizona in April 2016.

A Bluetooth-based pump card skimmer found inside of a Food N Things pump in Arizona in April 2016.

“The fuel segment has its own unique challenges, which we recognized when we first set the chip activation date for automated fuel dispensers/pumps (AFDs) two years after regular in-store locations,” Visa said in a statement explaining its decision. “We knew that the AFD segment would need more time to upgrade to chip because of the complicated infrastructure and specialized technology required for fuel pumps. For instance, in some cases, older pumps may need to be replaced before adding chip readers, requiring specialized vendors and breaking into concrete. Furthermore, five years after announcing our liability shift, there are still issues with a sufficient supply of regulatory-compliant EMV hardware and software to enable most upgrades by 2017.”

Visa said fuel pump skimming accounts for just 1.3 percent of total U.S. payment card fraud.

“During this interim period, Visa will monitor AFD fraud trends closely and work with merchants, acquirers and issuers to help mitigate any potential counterfeit fraud exposure at AFDs,” Visa said.

Avivah Litan, a fraud analyst with Gartner Inc., said the deadline shift wasn’t unexpected given how many U.S. fuel stations are behind on costly updates, noting that in some cases it can cost more than $10,000 per pump to accommodate chip card readers. The National Association of Convenience Stores estimates that station operators will spend approximately $30,000 per store to accommodate chip readers, and that the total cost to the fuel industry could exceed $4 billion.

“Some of them you can just replace the payment module inside the pump, but the older pumps will need to be completely removed and replaced,” Litan said. “Gas stations and their unattended pumps have always been an easy target for thieves. The fraud usually migrates to the point of least resistance, and we’re seeing now the fraudsters really moving to targeting unattended stations that haven’t been upgraded.” Continue reading →


30
Nov 15

Gas Theft Gangs Fuel Pump Skimming Scams

Few schemes for monetizing stolen credit cards are as bold as the fuel theft scam: Crooks embed skimming devices inside fuel station pumps to steal credit card data from customers. Thieves then clone the cards and use them to steal hundreds of gallons of gas at multiple filling stations. The gas is pumped into hollowed-out trucks and vans, which ferry the fuel to a giant tanker truck. The criminals then sell and deliver the gas at cut rate prices to shady and complicit fuel station owners.

Agent Steve Scarince of the U.S. Secret Service heads up a task force in Los Angeles that since 2009 has been combating fuel theft and fuel pump skimming rings. Scarince said the crooks who plant the skimmers and steal the cards from fuel stations usually are separate criminal groups from those who use the cards to steal and resell gas.

External pump skimmers retrieved from LA fuel stations.

An external pump skimmer is attached to the end of this compromised fuel dispenser in Los Angeles (right).

“Generally the way it works is the skimmer will sell the cards to a fuel theft cell or ring,” he said. “The head of the ring or the number two guy will go purchase the credit cards and bring them back to the drivers. More often than not, the drivers don’t know a whole lot about the business. They just show up for work, the boss hands them 25 cards and says, ‘Make the most of it, and bring me back the cards that don’t work.’ And the leader of the ring will go back to the card skimmer and say, ‘Okay out of 100 of those you sold me, 50 of them didn’t work.'”

Scarince said the skimmer gangs will gain access to the inside of the fuel pumps either secretly or by bribing station attendants. Once inside the pumps, the thieves hook up their skimmer to the gas pump’s card reader and PIN pad. The devices also are connected to the pump’s electric power — so they don’t need batteries and can operate indefinitely.

Internal pump skimming device seized from a Los Angeles fuel station.

Internal pump skimming device seized from a Los Angeles fuel station.

Most internal, modern pump skimmers are built to record the card data on a storage device that can transmit the data wirelessly via Bluetooth technology. This way, thieves can drive up with a laptop and fill their tank in the time it takes to suck down the card data that’s been freshly stolen since their last visit.

The Secret Service task force in Los Angels has even found pump skimming devices that send the stolen card data via SMS/text message to the thieves, meaning the crooks don’t ever have to return to the scene of the crime and can receive the stolen cards and PINs anywhere in the world that has mobile phone service.

MOBILE BOMBS

Scarince said the fuel theft gangs use vans and trucks crudely modified and retrofitted with huge metal and/or plastic “bladders” capable of holding between 250 and 500 gallons of fuel.

“The fuel theft groups will drive a bladder truck from gas station to gas station, using counterfeit cards to fill up the bladder,” he said. “Then they’ll drive back to their compound and pump the fuel into a 4,000 or 5,000 [gallon] container truck.”

A bladder made to look like it's hauling used tires.

A bladder truck made to look like it’s hauling used tires. The wooden panel that was hiding the metal tank exposed here has been removed in this picture.

The fuel will be delivered to gas station owners with whom the fuel theft ring has previously brokered with on the price per gallon. And it’s always a cash transaction.

“The stations know they’re buying stolen gas,” Scarince said. “They’re fully aware the fuel is not coming from a legitimate source. There’s never any paperwork with the fuel driver, and these transactions are missing all the elements of a normal, legitimate transaction between what would be a refinery and a gas station.”

Fuel theft gangs converted this van into a bladder truck. Image: Secret Service.

Fuel theft gangs converted this van into a bladder truck. Image: Secret Service.

Needless to say, the bladder trucks aren’t exactly road-worthy when they’re filled to the brim with stolen and highly flammable fuel. From time to time, one of the dimmer bladder truck drivers will temporarily forget his cargo and light up a smoke.

“Two or three summers ago we had this one guy who I guess was just jonesing for a cigarette,” Scarince said. “He lit up and that was the last thing he did.”

This bladder truck went up in smoke (literally).

This bladder truck went up in (a) smoke.

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