BATAVIA – A Batavia fuel company reported that it was the victim of 38 fraudulent transactions, paid for by stolen credit card numbers and not discovered until the customers reviewed their credit card statements, according to a company official and a Batavia police report released after a Freedom of Information Act request.
Feece Oil, 1700 Hubbard Drive, reported on Dec. 30 that from Dec. 26 to Dec. 29, it noted 38 transactions for about $100 worth of diesel fuel for each one, the report stated.
Each of the transactions was paid by a re-encoded credit card, as the company’s pumps require a card swipe prior to purchase, the report stated.
Michael Feece, one of the company owners, said thieves use devices known as “skimmers” – illegal card readers attached to payment terminals – where people use credit cards to pay for things, essentially reproducing the black magnetic stripe on the card.
“Criminals will use a skimmer and make a copy of the magnetic stripe on the credit card. They get so many of these and sell them to people,” Feece said. “Gas stations like ours are kind of a target because there is no clerk when you get gas, to make sure the card is signed. It’s unmanned at night and weekends.”
Feece said the skimming did not occur at his station, but elsewhere in other companies’ transactions or at ATMs.
The company found out it was being victimized by theft when the legitimate credit card holders got their bills showing fuel had been purchased in a city and state where they had never been, Feece said.
“They’re from California. ‘I was never in Batavia, Illinois buying diesel fuel,’ and the credit card company will charge us back,” Feece said. "Sometimes it takes weeks before you get notified.”
Feece said the fraudulent transactions took place earlier than when the company reported it to police, as the report was based on the credit card charge backs.
Feece said the company’s recent software upgrade inadvertently left out an important anti-theft counter-measure: Asking for a postal ZIP code.
“When we did the upgrade, the ZIP code verification went away,” Feece said. “It’s a big deterrent. People who steal these or buy stolen credit cards have no idea where they are from – they’re all over the country.”
The ZIP code question has been restored, so that should thwart any further skimmer thefts.
In January, Feece said the company actually caught a customer using a skimmed credit card number and who was filling storage tanks in the back of his pickup truck with about 300 gallons of diesel fuel.
Feece said it was likely the man was taking fuel and planning to sell it for cash.
“We did catch him and the police detained him,” Feece said. “He claimed he used a good credit card, but he would not allow a search of his vehicle."
Feece said police released him because they could not prove it was a fraudulent charge.