How ‘gas gangs’ are using exploited credit cards, and what’s being done to stop them

What happens to credit card information stolen from gas pumps? A new report from cyber security site Krebs on Security details one possible outcome.

Since 2009, a Secret Service task force in Los Angeles has patrolled the area's gas stations looking for credit card skimmers and uncovered a bigger crime ring centered around gas theft. Secret Service Agent Steve Scarince explained to Krebs that these criminals would use credit card information that they purchased, which was previously obtained from gas pump skimmers, to buy gas, and a lot of it.

"The fuel theft groups will drive a bladder truck from gas station to gas station, using counterfeit cards to fill up the bladder," Scarince told Krebs. "Then they'll drive back to their compound and pump the fuel into a 4,000 or 5,000 [gallon] container truck." He continued, saying that some of the more successful gangs and make over $10 million a year when selling the stolen gas.

While the task force actively investigates and purses these criminals, they're also working with credit card issuers to help prevent these attacks using a technique called velocity checks. These checks occur when multiplies of the same products or product types are purchased in quick succession in the same relative location. Once triggered, most banks will automatically issue a fraud alert on the card.

"More checks like that are being tested and deployed, and banks are getting better at detecting this activity," Scarince said.

Issuers are also capping fuel purchases to limit the extend of the damage.

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