Identify theft ring targets Buc-ees stores across Texas

An identity theft ring is targeting a popular road-side convenience store with a beaver logo. Investigators say Buc-ees stores from the gulf coast to Tyler and Temple have been hit. The crime spree comes as the credit card industry this month has given retailers a choice; start accepting new security technology now  or get stuck with the bill.

Buc-ees stores have become popular stops for travelers in Texas. That includes the people in surveillance pictures released by Freeport police. (Watch video of the suspects here video 1 video 2) Investigators say they are members of an Identify Theft Ring who have hit about 14 Buc-ees stores across Texas. They've put stolen account information onto fake cards and have gone on shopping sprees. The cloned cards do not have new security chips, called EMV, embedded in them.

"EMV would help in a case like what we're seeing with Buc-ees, because it makes the card harder to replicate,” said Matt Schulz with creditcards.com.

The chip, according to Schulz, scrambles the information that’s stored on the magnet strip located on the back of a card.

"What it does is,  passes a unique transaction code that is specific to that one particular purchase and if a bad guy hacks into the retailers data base, takes that code, and tries to use it again, it won’t work, it is like stealing an expired password,” said Schulz.

If you have a major credit card, by the end of this year or the first part of next year, you should get one of these new cards with a chip in it. Earlier this year banks warned retailers new chip readers should be installed by October 1st. It’s not mandatory to have the devices but those who don’t will be responsible for any fraudulent purchase. Some small business owners who already pay several hundred dollars a month just to accept credit cards have opted out.

"Yeah it’s worth the gamble, we haven't anybody come, had a fraudulent charge in the three years we've been doing business,” said Steen Sarff who owns the Simply Sweet cupcake shop in Bastrop.

The new security feature is not yet being used at ATMs or at gas pumps. It will be phased in over the next year and should be in place by 2017. There is also no guarantee; however, cards with the security chips will stop theft rings like the one targeting Buc-ees.

"EMV is definitely not a magic bullet against all credit card fraud, but it is an important step forward,” said Schulz.

The theft ring which has not yet been caught is not only hitting Buc-ees, investigators say several Valero gas stations have also been targeted.

Additional EMV information here.
 

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