Some financial institutions are now offering so-called “cardless ATM” transactions that allow customers to withdraw cash using nothing more than their mobile phones. But as the following story illustrates, this new technology also creates an avenue for thieves to quickly and quietly convert stolen customer bank account usernames and passwords into cold hard cash. Worse still, fraudulent cardless ATM withdrawals may prove more difficult for customers to dispute because they place the victim at the scene of the crime.

A portion of the third rejection letter that Markula received from Chase about her $2,900 fraud claim. The bank ultimately reversed itself and refunded the money after being contacted by KrebsOnsecurity, stating that Markula's account was one of several that were pilfered by a crime gang that has since been arrested by authorities.

A portion of the third rejection letter that Markula received from Chase about her $2,900 fraud claim.

San Francisco resident Kristina Markula told KrebsOnSecurity that it wasn’t until shortly after a vacation in Cancun, Mexico in early November 2016 that she first learned that Chase Bank even offered cardless ATM access. Markula said that while she was still in Mexico she tried to view her bank balance using a Chase app on her smartphone, but that the app blocked her from accessing her account.

Markula said she thought at the time that Chase had blocked her from using the app because the request came from an unusual location. After all, she didn’t have an international calling or data plan and was trying to access the account via Wi-Fi at her hotel in Mexico.

Upon returning to the United States, Markula called the number on the back of her card and was told she needed to visit the nearest Chase bank branch and present two forms of identification. At a Chase branch in San Francisco, she handed the teller a California driver’s license and her passport. The branch manager told her that someone had used her Chase online banking username and password to add a new mobile phone number to her account, and then move $2,900 from her savings to her checking account.

The manager told Markula that whoever made the change then requested that a new mobile device be added to the account, and changed the contact email address for the account. Very soon after, that same new mobile device was used to withdraw $2,900 in cash from her checking account at the Chase Bank ATM in Pembroke Pines, Fla.

A handful of U.S. banks, including Chase, have deployed ATMs that are capable of dispensing cash without requiring an ATM card. In the case of Chase ATMs, the customer approaches the cash machine with a smart phone that is already associated with a Chase account. Associating an account with the mobile app merely requires the customer to supply the app with their online banking username and password.

Users then tell the Chase app how much they want to withdraw, and the app creates a unique 7-digit code that needs to be entered at the Chase ATM (instead of numeric code, some banks offering cardless ATM withdrawals will have the app display a QR code that needs to be read by a scanner on the ATM). Assuming the code checks out, the machine dispenses the requested cash and the transaction is complete. At no time is the Chase customer asked to enter his or her 4-digit ATM card PIN.

Most financial institutions will limit traditional ATM customers to withdrawing $300-$600 per transaction, but some banks have set cardless transaction limits at much higher amounts under certain circumstances. For example, at the time Markula’s fraud occurred, the limit was set at $3,000 for withdrawals during normal bank business hours and made at Chase ATMs located at Chase branches.

Markula said the bank employees helped her close the account and file a claim to dispute the withdrawal. She said the teller and the bank manager reviewed her passport and confirmed that the disputed transaction took place during the time between which her passport was stamped by U.S. and Mexican immigration authorities. However, Markula said Chase repeatedly denied her claims.

“We wanted to thank you for providing your information while we thoroughly researched your dispute,” Chase’s customer claims department wrote in the third rejection letter sent to Markula, dated January 5, 2017. “We confirmed that the disputed charges were correct and we will not be making an adjustment to your account.”

Markula said she was dumbfounded by the rejection letter because the last time she spoke with a fraud claims manager at Chase, the manager told her that the transaction had all of the hallmarks of an account takeover.

“I’m pretty frustrated at the process so far,” said Markula, who shared with this author a detailed timeline of events before and after the disputed transaction. “Not captured in this timeline are the countless phone calls to the fraud department which is routed overseas. The time it takes to reach someone and poor communication seems designed to make one want to give up.”

KrebsOnSecurity contacted Chase today about Markula’s case. Chase spokesman Mike Fusco said Markula’s rejection letter was incorrect, and that further investigation revealed she had been victimized by a group of a half-dozen fraudsters who were caught using the above-described technique to empty out Chase bank accounts.

Fusco forwarded this author a link to a Fox28 story about six men from Miami, Fla. who were arrested late last year in Columbus, Ohio in connection with what authorities there called a “multi-state crime spree” targeting Chase accounts.

“We escalated it and reviewed her issue and determined she did have fraud on her account,” Fusco said.  “We’re reimbursing her and we’re really sorry. This small pilot we ran allowed a limited number of customers to access cash at Chase ATMs without a card. During the pilot we detected some fraudulent activity where a group of people were able to go online and change the customer’s information and get the one-time access code, and we immediately notified the authorities.”

Chase declined to say how many like Markula were victimized by this gang. Unfortunately, somehow Chase neglected to notify victims, as Markula’s case shows.

“It makes you wonder how many other people didn’t dispute the charges,” she said. “Thankfully, I don’t give up easily.”

Fusco said Chase had made changes to better detect these types of fraudulent transactions going forward, and that it had lowered the withdrawal limit for these types of transactions — although for security reasons Fusco declined to say what the new limit was.

Fusco also said the bank’s system should have sent out an email alert to the original email on file in the event that the email on the account is changed, but Markula said she’s confident no such email ever landed in her inbox.

Avivah Litan, a fraud analyst at Gartner Inc., says many banks see mobile authentication as the way of the future for online banking and ATM transactions. She said most banks would love to be able to move away from physical bank cards, which often need to be replaced several times a year in response to data breaches at various retailers.

“A lot of banks see cardless transactions as a great way to reduce fraud and speed up transactions, but not many are offering it yet as a feature to customers,” Litan said.

Litan said Markula’s case echoes the spike in fraud that some banks saw after Apple debuted its Apple Pay platform. Many banks chose to adopt Apple Pay without also beefing up security around how they validate new customers and new mobile devices. As a result, this allowed fraudsters to take stolen credit card numbers and expiration dates — data that previously was only good for fraudulent online transactions — tie those cards to iPhones, and use the phones to commit card fraud at brick-and-mortar stores that accepted Apple Pay.

“Identity proofing remains the weakest point in mobile banking,” Litan said. “Asking for the customer’s username and password to on-board a new mobile device isn’t enough.”

Litan said Chase should require customers who wish to conduct cardless ATM transactions to enter their PIN in addition to the one-time code. But she said even that was not enough.

Litan said Chase should have flagged the transaction as highly suspicious from the get-go, given that the fraudsters accessed her account from a new location, changed her contact email address, added a new device and withdrew just under the daily maximum — all in a very short span of time.

“ATM transactions should have much stronger fraud controls because consumers don’t have as strong protections as they do with other transactions,” Litan said. “If a customer’s card is used fraudulently at a retailer, for example, the consumer is protected by Visa and MasterCard’s zero liability rule, and they can generally expect to get their money back. But when you withdraw cash from an ATM, you’re not protected by those rules. It’s down to Regulation E and your bank’s policies.”

Under the Federal Regulation E, if a retail banking customer reports fraud, the bank must investigate the first statement of the activity plus 60 days from the date the statement was mailed by the financial institution. Unless the institution can prove the transaction wasn’t fraud, it must reimburse the consumer. However, any activity that takes place outside of the aforementioned timeframe carries unlimited liability to the consumer, as the financial institution may have been able to prevent the loss had it been reported in a timely manner.

Fusco added that consumers should beware of phishing scams, and consider asking their financial institution to secure their accounts with a special passphrase or code that needs to be supplied when authenticating with the bank over the telephone (a precaution I have long advised).

Also, if your bank offers two-step or two-factor authentication — such as the requirement to send a text-message with a one-time code to your mobile device if someone attempts to log in from an unknown device or location — please take advantage of that feature. Twofactorauth.org has a list of banks that offer this additional security feature.

Also, as the Regulation E paragraph I hope makes clear, do not count on your bank to block fraudulent transfers, and remember that ultimately you are responsible for spotting and reporting fraudulent transactions.

Litan said she won’t be surprised if this incident gives more banks pause about moving to cardless ATM transactions.

“This is the first case I’m aware of in the United States where this type of fraud has been an issue,” she said. “I’m guessing this will slow the banks down a bit in adopting the technology because they’ll see now how easy it is for criminals to take advantage of it.”

Update, Jan. 6, 9:44 a.m. ET: Looks like Chase could have learned from the experience of NatWest, a big bank in the U.K. that experienced much the same fraud five years ago after enabling a cardless “get cash” feature.

Source: krebsonsecurity

Visa this week delayed by three years a deadline for fuel station owners to install payment terminals at the pump that are capable of handling more secure chip-based cards. Experts say the new deadline — extended from 2017 — comes amid a huge spike in fuel pump skimming, and means fraudsters will have another three years to fleece banks and their customers by installing card-skimming devices at the pump.

Until this week, fuel station owners in the United States had until October 1, 2017 to install chip-capable readers at their pumps. Under previous Visa rules, station owners that didn’t have chip-ready readers in place by then would have been on the hook to absorb 100 percent of the costs of fraud associated with transactions in which the customer presented a chip-based card yet was not asked or able to dip the chip (currently, card-issuing banks eat most of the fraud costs from fuel skimming). The chip card technology standard, also known as EMV (short for Europay, MasterCard and Visa) makes credit and debit cards far more expensive and difficult for thieves to clone.

This week, however, Visa said fuel station owners would have until October 1, 2020 to meet the liability shift deadline.

A Bluetooth-based pump card skimmer found inside of a Food N Things pump in Arizona in April 2016.

A Bluetooth-based pump card skimmer found inside of a Food N Things pump in Arizona in April 2016.

“The fuel segment has its own unique challenges, which we recognized when we first set the chip activation date for automated fuel dispensers/pumps (AFDs) two years after regular in-store locations,” Visa said in a statement explaining its decision. “We knew that the AFD segment would need more time to upgrade to chip because of the complicated infrastructure and specialized technology required for fuel pumps. For instance, in some cases, older pumps may need to be replaced before adding chip readers, requiring specialized vendors and breaking into concrete. Furthermore, five years after announcing our liability shift, there are still issues with a sufficient supply of regulatory-compliant EMV hardware and software to enable most upgrades by 2017.”

Visa said fuel pump skimming accounts for just 1.3 percent of total U.S. payment card fraud.

“During this interim period, Visa will monitor AFD fraud trends closely and work with merchants, acquirers and issuers to help mitigate any potential counterfeit fraud exposure at AFDs,” Visa said.

Avivah Litan, a fraud analyst with Gartner Inc., said the deadline shift wasn’t unexpected given how many U.S. fuel stations are behind on costly updates, noting that in some cases it can cost more than $10,000 per pump to accommodate chip card readers. The National Association of Convenience Stores estimates that station operators will spend approximately $30,000 per store to accommodate chip readers, and that the total cost to the fuel industry could exceed $4 billion.

“Some of them you can just replace the payment module inside the pump, but the older pumps will need to be completely removed and replaced,” Litan said. “Gas stations and their unattended pumps have always been an easy target for thieves. The fraud usually migrates to the point of least resistance, and we’re seeing now the fraudsters really moving to targeting unattended stations that haven’t been upgraded.”

The delay comes as some states — particularly in the southern United States — are grappling with major increases in fuel station skimming attacks. In September, KrebsOnSecurity published a detailed look at nine months’ worth of fuel pump skimming incident reports filed by police and regulators in Arizona, which said it saw more fuel station skimming attacks in the month of August 2016 than in all of 2015 combined.

That report about Arizona’s skimmer scourge found that thieves tend to target pumps that are furthest from the pump station and closest to the street. They also favored stations that did not employ basic security measures such as tamper-evident security tape and security cameras.

Crooks involved in fuel pump skimming generally are tied to organized crime gangs, as evidenced by this Nov. 2015 investigation into fuel theft gangs operating in Southern California . The thieves most often use stolen master keys or bribery to gain access to the pumps. Once inside the pumps, the thieves hook up their skimmer to the pump’s card reader and PIN pad. The devices also are connected to the pump’s electric power — so they don’t need batteries and can operate indefinitely. Increasingly, these thieves are installing Bluetooth-based skimmers that can transmit stolen data wirelessly, allowing thieves to avoid taking the risky step of retrieving their skimmer gear.

Some pump skimming devices are capable of stealing debit card PINs as well, so it’s good idea to avoid paying with a debit card at the pump. Armed with your PIN and debit card data, thieves can clone the card and pull money out of your account at an ATM. Having your checking account emptied of cash while your bank sorts out the situation can be a huge hassle and create secondary problems (bounced checks, for instance).

“That’s exactly the sort of advice fuel station owners don’t want given to consumers,” Litan said. “For filling stations, credit is their least favorite form of payment because it’s the most expensive for them, which is why some stations offer lower prices for debit card transactions. But consumers should never use a debit card at a gas station.”

Want to learn more about skimming devices? Check out my series, All About Skimmers.

Source: krebsonsecurity