KOLD INVESTIGATION: Fueling fraud at the pump - Tucson News Now

KOLD INVESTIGATION: Fueling fraud at the pump

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Filling up your tank could be filling the wallets of thieves.

According to the Arizona Department of Agriculture, 25 skimmers were found at more than a dozen gas stations in southern Arizona last year.

A skimmer is a piece of equipment thieves use to intercept credit and debit card data. They are usually placed inside the pumps at a gas station, which makes them difficult to detect.

Credit card skimmers like this one have been found all over the Tucson area. (Source: Tucson News Now)

Becoming A Victim

Last year, Lisa Noyce’s money was stolen from one of these skimmers.

Noyce said she went to fill up at her neighborhood Circle K, a few hours later she looked at her account online.

"I noticed there was a charge (from a place) I don't go to, that's way on the other side of town,” she said.

She put $10 worth of gas in, but she noticed a $220 charge.

“It's kind of being robbed. Yeah, absolutely," she said. "Kind of freaked me out."

A financial crimes expert said each skimmer can hold hundreds of thousands of credit card numbers.

"The device itself can literally steal 300,000 to 400,000 card numbers," said Det. Jeff VanNorman, a member of the Tucson Police Department's Financial Crimes Unit.

In 2015, retailers across the nation were required to install the higher security chip-card readers, or face fines. Gas stations were given two extra years to make the upgrades

Last year, VISTA and MasterCard gave gas retailers three more years to instill the chip-reading technology.

"They extended that deadline from October 2017 to October 2020, realizing there were unique challenges at the gasoline pump that convenience store operators were facing," said Paige Anderson the director of government relations for the National Association of Convenience Stores.

Anderson said the challenges boil down to time and money. The new equipment and technology to read the chip cost a lot to install and maintain. She said is could cost anywhere between $10,000 and $25,000 per pump.

"What we are finding is that most convenience stores have at least five pumps," she said. "If you have five pumps, we are finding it costs in the range of as much as $100,000."

Because of the three-year extension, many gas station owners are taking their time to secure their pumps.

VanNorman said there are 445 gas stations in Tucson and surrounding Pima County and not a single pump can read the new chip cards.

Every day that goes by, is another day when your money and personal information is put at risk.

Prices Rise, Businesses Close

Jesse Lulo has been in the gas station and convenience store industry for nearly 3 decades.

He expects gas prices to go up when owners get their equipment up to date for the 2020 deadline.

“That equipment costs you [gas station owners]. So what do you have to do? You have to pass it on to the customer. That cost, you either absorb it or pass it on to your customers at the pump,” Lulo said.

He predicts smaller stations may go belly up, because they can’t afford the extra costs to install the new technology.

“When you have a mom-and-pop operation, just a one store operation, the bottom line is pretty tight. They may be a situation where an owner operator says, ‘You know what? I give up. It no longer makes sense for me to be doing businesses. I’m shutting down my doors.'”

Protecting Yourself

In the meantime, here are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself. More information can be found HERE.

• A security report found scammers typically target the pumps furthest from the convenience store and closest to the street. If you have a choice avoid those pumps.

• Go to a well-lit station.

• Look for a tamper-evident seal on the pump. If it doesn't have one or the seal is broken, avoid using it.

• Choose a gas station that has security cameras aimed at the pumps as scammers tend to avoid those stations.

• Pay inside with cash, when possible

• If you pay with a debit or credit card, pay inside the store

• Monitor your bank activity and financial statements

• Check financial statements and report discrepancies immediately

• If you see a skimmer, report it to by calling local police and by going HERE.

Already Been Hit

Here’s a list of gas stations in Tucson and Pima County where skimmers were found by the Arizona Department of Agriculture since 2016. The statewide list can be found HERE.

Eight skimmers were found at a store near West Ina Road and Interstate 10 on May 12, 2016.

• Skimmer found at store near South Harrison and East Golf Links roads on Aug. 13, 2016.

Skimmer found at store near East Tanque Verde and South Kolb roads on Aug. 15, 2016.

• Skimmer found at store near North Jefferson Avenue and East Speedway Boulevard on Aug. 18, 2016.

• Four skimmers found at store near South Alamo Avenue and East 22nd Street on Aug. 29, 2016.

• Two skimmers found at store near West Grant Road and North Dragoon Street on Aug. 31, 2016.

• Skimmer found at store near North Houghton Road and East Speedway Boulevard on Sept. 29, 2016.

• Two skimmers found at store near East Valencia and South Country Club roads on Oct. 19, 2016.

Skimmer found at store near North Oracle and West Hardy roads on Oct. 15, 2016.

• Skimmer found at store near Speedway and Jefferson on Oct. 31, 2016.

• Skimmer found at store near 22nd Street and Wilmot Road on Dec. 5, 2016.

• Skimmer found at store near 22nd Street and Camino Seco on Dec. 12, 2016.

• Skimmer found at store near Silverbell and Ironwood Hill Drive on Dec. 22, 2016.

• Skimmer found at store near East Grant Road and Craycroft Road on Jan. 23, 2017.

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