Credit card skimming at gas stations to possibly fund terrorists. Complaint - Credit card skimming at gas stations to possibly fund terrorists.

Review by TXRoadTrip on 2004-11-15
TEXAS -- KHOU was the only news station that aired this last week. I have not seen any other reports on other News stations in Houston Texas about this. I think it should be publicized and the public should be warned. So please read and be careful.

This is from khou.com Houston, Texas.
You might have to log in to see the report. Just in case I copied and pasted it here for y'all.
If you log in, you can see the news video.


Swipe, swindle: Skimming your cards at the pump

10:46 AM CST on Tuesday, November 9, 2004

By Jeremy Rogalski / 11 News

Click to watch video

It sounds unbelievable. Just by filling up your car's gas tank you could find your bank account emptied by thieves.

It's a crime that's been sweeping the nation and the 11 News Defenders have discovered it's finally come to Houston.

It's a convenience most of us use, swiping our credit card at the pump. Just get your gas and go. But experts say not only could you end up the victim of high-tech criminals, but your stolen money could be going to terrorists.

All it takes is one quick swipe and you've got your gas. So convenient, who would think it could wipe out your credit and cash?

"It can happen so easily to you without you even knowing," said Curtis Cox, "and that's the scary thing about it"

Thieves blindsided Curtis Cox for $500 -- a heavy blow when you're working full-time to pay for school.

"I was pretty puzzled, you know, as to how they got my information ... [because] no one stole my card," said Cox.

"I really didn't have any idea it was happening," said victim Larry Shoemaker.

And Shoemaker says he got the same surprise when his credit card company called.

"They said my card had been canceled, my information had been stolen," said Shoemaker. "I checked my wallet and I was like, well I got my credit card."

So what happened?

Court records claim they were just two of many victims whose debit or credit card information had been stolen or skimmed when they made a purchase at a ring of Houston-area gas stations operated by persons of Middle Eastern descent.

"There were numerous people involved," said Lamont Rogers, special agent for the Secret Service, "in a scheme to withdraw cash from ATM machines."

And how did it work? Investigators say when a customer paid the cashier with a credit card, as his card was swiped the information would be transmitted to the bank to be approved. But at the same time the same data went on another line to a laptop computer hidden at the gas station capturing the credit card number and expiration date.

And if the customer used a debit card, a camera in the ceiling would record the customer's PIN number.

Then phony cards were manufactured and used at ATMs all across Houston.

"The fraud loss is approximately $400,000," said Rogers.

Eventually arrested were Badruddin Sultan Badarpura and Syed Mohsin Abbas, both Pakastani nationals. Badapura pled guilty, but Abbas disappeared.

And where is he? "That's the $64,000 question," said Rogers.

Those crimes took place inside at the cashier. But these days, many of us never make it past the pump and that's the latest place thieves are targeting.

They've been hiding a device called a skimmer right inside the pump, so it can grab your credit information -- right off the magnetic strip of the card with every swipe.

"We've had skimmers in gas pumps in Washington, in Philadelphia," said Joel Lisker.

Lisker should know, he's a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor in Los Angeles and St. Louis and a past Mastercard security expert.

Pick a city and it's a problem. Now a member of a Federal fraud task force says the devices are easy to get online. They're everywhere.

"None of this is terribly expensive," said Lisker.

And Lisker says crooks then go to great lengths. It wouldn't be unusual for somebody to pose as a repair person to gain access to the pump.

But authorities the Defenders talked with in Houston say they have not seen that particular type of fraud here in Houston.

"I don't see how they don't know," said Rikki, a confidential informant for a law enforcement agency.

Rikki says it is happening here and it's bad.

Rikki claims one particular gang strikes at night.

"They're going in after hours and they either have a key from one of the attendants that work there or the attendant will unlock the box for them," said Rikki.


"They put the skimmer inside of it and they lock it back up," says the informant.

Nobody will know their card is getting skimmed and the thieves are off on a spending spree.

For debit cards, Rikki says the thieves plant a tiny camera on the pump to get your PIN number.

But the informant says the gangs won't use it at Bank ATMs because those have cameras.

"They'll go to any mom-and-pop gas station that has an ATM in it without a camera. [And] they'll go until the card don't work anymore."

And this kind of cash crime worries law enforcement.

"Terrorist organizations need money," said Lisker.

And some of them get that funding through skimming.

"It could be anything from a domestic hate group to al Qaeda," said Lisker.

For example, authorities say the Madrid train bombing, where hundreds were killed, was partly financed by skimming.

"It does happen and it happens more frequently than we'd like," said Lisker.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

Experts say first, use gas pumps closest to the station's entrance. Thieves tend to sneak skimmers in pumps that no one's watching. And if you pay inside with a debit card, when you punch in your PIN number, use your other hand to coverup the keypad.

And finally, when in doubt, pay cash.
Comments:7 Replies - Latest reply on 2005-04-12
Posted by chris75056_1 on 2004-11-16:
Not to diminish the validity of the situation, but why is everything these days blamed on terrorism? Anyone ever read THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF?
Posted by Roger&Out on 2004-11-16:
Good point chris. We also should not assume that something is true simply because it was on the local news.
Posted by TXRoadTrip on 2004-11-17:
"Eventually arrested were Badruddin Sultan Badarpura and Syed Mohsin Abbas, both Pakastani nationals. Badapura pled guilty, but Abbas disappeared. And where is he? "That's the $64,000 question," said Rogers. Those crimes took place inside at the cashier. "
Posted by TXRoadTrip on 2004-11-17:
I did not write or air the story. Thought people should know. Yah I guess we really worry when they don’t have American names and might not be Americans. These two where from Pakistan. One caught and the other one on the loose. Think the FBI arrested the one they did catch and I have not heard anything else on it. If it was not such a big thing then why was the FBI in on it and not just local police? What if they where funding terrorist? Would you think about the money that someone stole from you or others from skimming helped terrorist kill the people on the train in France, or here in America or overseas. I pay cash for gas now.
Posted by TXRoadTrip on 2004-11-17:
Read for yourselves
Posted by TXRoadTrip on 2004-11-17:
Posted by CAMedWmn on 2005-04-12:
I agree that the term "terrorist" may be getting grossly overused.

This type of scam, usually done at outdoor ATM's, is increasingly common. That the owners or employees of a group of gas stations were able to modify their card readers to reveal information needed to scam customers is a new one, and one that apparently was caught fairly quickly.

Most are not caught up in these scams because they use their cards at a certain number of locations. I usually fill my gas tank at the same station every week, do my banking at the same branch, and pay my bills in the same way. When I notice something unusual, say a new card reader at the gas station, I request the manager and ask what is going on. Usually, they just replaced a broken reader (it gets quite the workout). My bank is located inside a store, so no chance of anything happening there. My bills are paid through secure web sites I am very familiar with, and if anything is changed I stop what I'm doing and call them to confirm I am at the correct site (they must tell me what changes were made, and give me my IP address that I'm logged in under at that moment).

Greedy bunch of theives? Yep, and sloppy too! But terrorists? They don't seem all that bright. After all, if they knew what they were doing they likely would have never been caught, and would have scammed way more than what they almost got away with.

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