O&A Masthead

Colorado News —
September 2014

Columnist — Joyce Trent

COLORADO SPRINGS — Skimming —the stealing of credit card identification through devices mounted on gasoline dispensers or POS machines — has gained in popularity in this area. Recently fifty people were victimized in thefts totaling $100,000, authorities reported.

The victims all had purchased gasoline at two 7-Elevens, one in Monument, the other in northern Colorado Springs. In one case a thief purchased three Home Depot cards with a card that had data stolen from a victim's card.

Colorado flag

The data is taken from the device and loaded onto another credit card which then is used to purchase products and services.

Suspects were caught on camera using cards that had been re-written with the stolen data. One person, Geider Morales, was arrested and charged with identity theft, money laundering, forgery, computer crimes and theft. Two other suspects have been identified and are the subject of a multi-agency manhunt.

It is one of the easiest crimes to commit, authorities say. A quick mounting of the device — which is virtually undetectable unless someone is looking for it — and the thief is equipped with lots of money, all without much risk and no physical harm to the person robbed.

Three of the devices were recovered in the recent episode. The equipment can be purchased but also is easily made, authorities said.

By the time a victim realizes the theft has occurred it usually is too late. Colorado Springs resident Rebeccah Snyder always checks her bank and card balances but was horrified when Visa called her and asked if she had authorized thousands of dollars of purchases. She immediately canceled the card number, but by then about a thousand dollars had been taken from her bank account.

The National Association of Convenience Stores is trying to educate its members to take precautions and offers protection through its WeCare Data Security Program. The program allows retailers to purchase tamper-proof tape to put over gasoline dispensers, which helps identify whether internal skimmers have been installed. The devices require the dispenser to be either opened up with a key or pried open.

If the keyboard is slightly raised or is not as weathered as the rest of the gas pump that is an indication that a keypad overlay has been placed on the original keypad to steal information, the association's Jeff Lenard said.

He recommended that gasoline station attendants check the dispensers daily.

Diebold recently developed an anti-skimming device called Active Edge that requires that cards be inserted horizontally. That prevents the whole strip from being read.

And the consumer can try to protect himself by covering the keypad with a free hand to block the camera or people from viewing inputted numbers.

BOULDER — Smoker Friendly has acquired Havana Manor Cigar Shop and Club, based in Longmont, Colorado.

"Havana Manor fits nicely into the footprint of the Smoker Friendly Stores and will be a great addition for cigar events and private parties," said the company. Havana Manor has a retail store and two lounges.

Dan Gallagher, CEO of Smoker Friendly, said the company will do some updating. Smoker Friendly operates 90 corporate-owned stores in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. Another 850 are operated by license. Smoker Friendly's parent company is The Cigarette Store which is a sister company to Gasamat Oil Company which operates a chain of gasoline stations and convenience stores.

ASPEN — A fee for a retailer providing a plastic bag is catching on and a state judge says it does not violate the Colorado taxpayers Bill of Rights, as alleged.

The Colorado Union of Taxpayers challenged the 20 cent fee imposed by the city of Aspen in a lawsuit, saying it is a tax that must be approved by the voters. But District Judge John Neiley ruled that the charge is a fee and not a tax and can remain in place. It affects all retailers, including convenience stores.

Several Colorado cities have imposed the fee in an attempt to get rid of plastic bags. Fort Collins has become the latest, imposing a five-cent fee. Retailers get to keep a portion of the proceeds.

COLORADO SPRINGS — Walmart continues to chase after the convenience store dollar, announcing plans to build its fifth Neighborhood Market here. The company aims to compete by offering not only the same quick pick-up items as convenience stores, but also full lines of frozen foods, meats and dairy and pet products. In many cases it has added a pharmacy.

The company opened its other four stores here in the last two years. It hopes to have the new one operational in 2016.

Spokeswoman Delia Garcia said the citizenry has responded very well to the current stores.

ASPEN — This city is about to become a one-gas-station town.

Mike Haisfield has sold his Conoco station to developer Mark Hunt for $6 million. Hunt said he is still weighing uses for the property but doubts it will have a gasoline station in the future.

The sale means the eviction of the town's only carwash, Eco Steam Wash. Owner Mario Zulian is devastated. "It's a good location. I do a good job," he said. In his six years of business he has serviced hundreds of vehicles, including many of the city's own fleets.

Zulian spoke at a City Council meeting saying he is concerned that the increased traffic at the other gasoline station, Shell-branded and also owned by Haisfield, will create safety issues. He suggested upgrading the Conoco station, perhaps adding a drive-through, but no one seemed interested. Council members didn't seem concerned about the switch-over. The city is becoming more oriented toward alternate transportation was the prevailing thinking.

Commented Mayor Steve Skadron, "We live in a town whose priority is to de-emphasize the automobile."

Skadron noted the investments the local government has made in public transportation and trails. "The fact that we may be losing a gas station that serves automobiles...that's not a big concern of mine."

Councilman Adam Frisch, said he is surprised that the city will still have any gasoline station, considering the red-hot real estate market.

Zulian responded that many townspeople are concerned that Hunt has bought dozens of downtown business properties in the last two years, spending over $100 million.

"We are all concerned about this guy. He's buying everything. What if he goes broke?"

ARVADA — Mark VII Equipment Inc., has been ranked the best carwash supplier in three categories in the Convenience Store Petroleum 2014 Brand Perception study.

The firm, a subsidiary of WashTec Ag of Germany, the world's largest manufacturer of vehicle cleaning systems, was rated best in quality, customer service, and marketing support.

Company CEO Steve Jeffs plans to retire at the end of 2014. He became CEO three years ago. Prior to that he served four years as vice president of sales and two years as managing director of the WashTec Uk subsidiary.

COLORADO SPRINGS — Gasoline prices nationwide dropped last month but not here. Motorists in this city were paying $3.64 a gallon as compared with the national price of $3.42. Colorado had the tenth highest prices in the country.

But officials said don't blame the conflicts in the Middle East or OPEC. It's more local. A refinery fire in Kansas shut down the CVR refining facility in Coffeyville, keeping wholesale prices higher. At the same time a high demand for the Canadian crude oil that is a key part of Colorado's gasoline supply has caused prices to soar.

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in Colorado Springs was $3.63, up a cent from the previous week, according to GasBuddy.com. An AAA survey found that prices were slightly lower than a week ago, but 6.5 cents higher than in the month previous and 28.6 cents higher than at the same time the year before.

PUEBLO — The Patriot Express Carwash has a little bit of everything — even a hairstyling salon.

Owners Gus Rick and Dan Carlson decided to make loyalty the heart of their business, offering motorists a good deal to sign up for regular washes. In their first year of operation they had signed up over 1,400 motorists in its membership program.

Free vacuum service is provided with the wash.

And Danielle Herrera's Stiletto Hair Salon, brandishing a huge stiletto-heeled shoe sign in the window, is doing great business. She, too, has promotions. She offers free haircuts to children going back to school and Halloween makeup. She has a full-service shop.

GRAND JUNCTION — Pilot Flying J of Knoxville, TN., has opened a new location here. It is part of an expansion that includes new stores in Oklahoma, Texas, and Nevada.

The Grand Junction location includes gasoline dispensers, two RV lanes, and eight diesel fuel lanes. Diesel exhaust fluid is available at the pump. There are 69 parking spaces for trucks and five showers for professional drivers.

There also is a McDonald's restaurant, PF Fresh fast food, and other food and beverages including premium coffee and tea to improve the travel conditions for professional drivers and travelers.

Originally published in the September 2014 issue of the O&A Marketing News.
Copyright 2014 by KAL Publications Inc.

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