Spokesperson denies hacking breach at Taos County Speedway stations

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 10/11/19

At least four Taos County residents said they have incurred fraudulent charges on bank accounts used to make purchases at local Speedway gas stations, but a spokesperson for the retail chain this …

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Spokesperson denies hacking breach at Taos County Speedway stations

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At least four Taos County residents said they have incurred fraudulent charges on bank accounts used to make purchases at local Speedway gas stations, but a spokesperson for the retail chain this week denied any breach of a payment system he described as “industry leading.”

Gas stations throughout the country in the last few years have seen a rising rate of financial information theft from “card skimmers,” or small electronic devices criminals install over card readers at gas pumps to collect information from a card’s magnetic strip. The devices are designed to replicate the look of card readers installed by retail chains, and therefore can go unnoticed until a bank sends a client an alert or a bank statement shows something suspicious.

In response, spokesperson Christian Holfinger said Speedway has spent over $100 million making their payment systems nearly unbreachable.

Gas pump terminals have been upgraded with “very strict design tolerances” that make it difficult for scammers to install skimmers in the first place, he said. He also said terminal dispensers have been upgraded to use “unique keys and locks,” as opposed to “universal dispenser keys,” which can make it easy for a criminal to install skimmer devices inside a terminal.

Holfinger said Speedway technology now also encrypts data at the point a card is swiped. Card readers are also able to validate each card, preventing counterfeit plastic from being used to steal gas.

He said all of these technological upgrades have been included at the five stations in Taos County that converted to the Speedway model this year.

“Since upgrading more than 15,000 dispensers (30,000-plus fueling positions), Speedway has had zero skimming incidents, including in Taos,” he said. “Consumers can be confident that using their payment card at Speedway dispensers is a safe decision.”

Taos County resident Ariessa Medina and her bank would say otherwise.

Medina said she stopped to fill up her tank at one of the new Speedway stations in El Prado before making her way down to Albuquerque on Sept. 28. Knowing that reports of skimming have been on the rise over the past few years, she wiggled the card reader to see if there was a skimmer attached. Nothing moved.

“I always hear of people doing it, so I always check before I put my card in,” she said, noting that it was the only time she filled up over several days. “I always move it. Literally where the card goes in, I just mess with that a little bit and then put my card in. But nothing’s ever been out of place.”

Nothing seemed amiss until two days later, when she got a text message alert from her bank, which notified her of five separate withdrawals at $100 dollars each. Each entry, she said, was marked with “Speedway” at different locations, none of which were anywhere near Taos.

While her bank put a stop to the charges and reimbursed her for the loss, the experience has made her concerned.

After she wrote a post about her experience on the Facebook page Ask! Taos on Oct. 1, three other people reported similiar experiences at gas pumps around town.

Donna Storch posted that she had her credit card information compromised after using a terminal at a Speedway south of town. Another commenter, Senaida Montoya, said her sister used a terminal inside another Speedway in town and received a bank alert 30 minutes after. Sonya Gonzales also relayed an experience of a family member, who she said bought some snacks at another Speedway location in Taos County, then received a notice “minutes later” that her bank account had been compromised.

Taos Police Chief David Trujillo says that using pumps within view of a gas station clerk decreases the likelihood a criminal will have tampered with it. If any doubt still exists, he said paying inside is likely the safest bet.

Holfinger said any customers who have concerns about payment terminals at their locations should call their customer service line at (800) 643-1948.

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