Murphy Oil: ‘No breach!’

Published 10:39 pm Monday, June 6, 2011

Company officials from Murphy USA were in Suffolk on Monday to examine the equipment at one of their gas stations following allegations on Friday that hundreds of debit-card frauds could be traced back to the common denominator of the victims having bought gas at the station.

After examining the gas pumps, the company found “no indication of a breach whatsoever,” said Jay Staggs, director of communications for Murphy, whose station in front of the Walmart on North Main Street is at the center of a police investigation.

“We really take the security of our customers’ information and identity extremely seriously,” Staggs added.


Email newsletter signup

Staggs and four other company representatives — including the corporate maintenance manager, the director of information technology and an IT team — flew to Suffolk from company headquarters in Arkansas to check things out at the station after reading and watching media reports from Virginia about the debit card frauds.

Suffolk police announced on Friday through city spokesperson Debbie George that they were probing a rash of debit-card frauds that had in common the fact that each victim had been a customer at the local gas station during the month of May.

As of Friday, police said, there had been 11 reports of money being stolen from bank accounts by someone in California. After police put out the word during the weekend that folks needed to check their bank statements for fraudulent activity, more than a dozen new reports were filed with Suffolk police on Monday, George said Monday evening.

Gates County police reported several hundred similar frauds targeting residents of that community who had been Murphy USA customers, George said.

“The common denominator is that they were all customers there during that timeframe,” George stressed on Monday. “We haven’t said there was a breach of their location. The concern was to find out whether there were any additional victims of the crime.”

In Friday’s press release announcing the investigation, George wrote, “Police are unsure at this time exactly how the cards’ information was captured but are looking at possibilities of methods such as a card reader installed on a gas pump.”

Before leaving Arkansas and again after having visited the gas station in Suffolk, Staggs insisted that there were no indications of any kind of electronic information “skimmer” in the company’s pumps or electronic systems.

“We have double-checked everything, and we cannot find any evidence of anything that would show we had a breach,” he said. “We have never had a breach — not one single time — and we don’t believe this is the first one.”

After meeting with Suffolk police, however, Stagg said the police department “seems absolutely convinced that it’s a Murphy USA issue.”

“We’re going to do anything we can to work with them,” he added. “But we didn’t just start taking the security of our customers’ information seriously today. The safety and security of our customers is something that we have taken very seriously all along.”

Stagg and Suffolk officials both advised that people should check their bank statements to make sure they haven’t been scammed.

“Anyone who uses any sort of card should be diligent about checking their statements every month,” Stagg said.

Police on Friday requested that area residents who bought gas from the Murphy station with a debit card in May check their statements for any unauthorized debit withdrawals. Any unauthorized debits should be immediately reported.

Meanwhile company officials have pledged to continue working with local police to understand the problem, and Suffolk will be glad to have that help, George said.

“They certainly have some resources that can be beneficial,” she said.