Texas Communities Grapple With Gas-Station Skimming

Star Community Newspapers in Plano, Texas, reported that police this past month started receiving reports of a national scam hitting the city: thieves snagging PIN codes and accessing fast cash.

Jerry Minton, Plano forgery and fraud detective, told Star Community Newspapers that 45 cases are currently being investigated.

The scam has affected people nationwide, too, but Minton said investigators aren’t sure exactly how the PIN numbers are being compromised. There also doesn’t appear to be a specific area targeted.

“Sometime people’s PIN numbers are being used in states they have not even visited,” Minton said. “The thieves are re-encoding a max drive on software and hardware they purchased. They can walk up to an ATM, pop it in and have the cash in hand.”

Minton said cardholders typically do not find out their card has been compromised until after the thief has conducted their “dirty business” or at the tail end, when they are finishing up.

“The card could have been compromised two to three weeks or even one month before, and it’s just now being used.” Minton told the newspaper. “This makes it hard to target a specific timeframe when the cards were compromised.”

The newest debit-card scam is similar to the previous one where thieves retrieved bank information from credit cards and debit cards, but Minton said in this case the thieves don’t need face-to-face contact to get the cash.

The hard part is getting the PIN number.

“We don’t know if they have a trap-and-trade device or something broadcasting out for a person nearby to receive on a laptop computer,” Minton said. “We don’t know exactly what they are doing. But they have to be able to match up the PIN number with the max drive.”

Plano police and the Secret Service Dallas office have teamed in the investigation. Rob Caltabiano, assistant special agent in charge, said these type crimes are popping up everywhere.

“They are nothing new, they just get more sophisticated,” Caltabiano said. “Every time we find out how they are doing it, another scam takes place.”

“We are doing as much diligence as we can,” Minton said. “We are making sure we have a pretty good idea where the cards were compromised and not just singling out gas stations, or one person claiming they have bad business practices.”

As part of the investigation, Minton said the targeted gas stations contact their own security team, who investigate every pump. He said it is the gas station’s responsibility to correct the problem if a skimmer or any illegal device is detected.

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