Local gas station satellite dishes foil-covered for fraud

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

RIVERVIEW – Police investigated an attempt to defraud a local gas station last Sunday when a man went up on its roof to cover the data transmission satellite dish with aluminum foil in an attempt to block gift, credit and debit card financial transactions.

The BP gas station, 20990 Fort St., reported a suspicious situation at about 5 p.m. Sunday when an anonymous witness reported an unknown man on the roof of the station covering the satellite dish in foil.

The man was described as black, 5 feet 10 inches tall, with a short Afro and wearing a gray polo shirt and gray pants.

According to a special bulletin issued by the Michigan Intelligence Operations Center, covering the financial transaction satellite dish still allows a gift card to activate the pump, but since the data is not uploaded to the satellite via the dish, the gift card remains active and can be used again.

Officials say a common criminal tactic is to offer an illegal gas purchase transaction opportunity at a discounted rate utilizing a gift card and a foil-encased, transaction blocked satellite dish.

Last Sunday the station was able to suspend credit card transactions and restore satellite dish financial transactions before a loss could be incurred through fraudulent transactions.

In the summer of 2008, the same station saw a suspicious run of gift card transactions, but the foil subsequently removed from the satellite dish had not blocked any credit card transactions.

Two Melvindale BP stations experienced fraud attempts involving foil on their satellite dishes. One, at 4310 Oakwood, discovered a problem Feb. 8, 2008, with credit card transmission from the gas pumps. Foil removed from its rooftop satellite dish was checked by police for possible fingerprints.

An employee at the station at 2625 Schaefer noticed its credit card reader showed it was not getting a signal on Sept. 28, 2007. The employee suspected fraudulent activity when five or six cars appeared and began pumping super unleaded gas. One card being used at the pump also was transmitting a fraudulent code warning flag.

Melvindale police were dealing with a barricaded gunman at the time and were unable to respond immediately. They advised the station to turn off the gas pumps temporarily and lock their doors.

By the time police from a neighboring city could respond, the suspected defrauders had left the station. Aluminum foil was found on the satellite dish and also was analyzed for possible fingerprints.

Police in Allen Park and Wyandotte did not recall encountering any recent similar foil-covered satellite dish fraud attempts.

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