Sunday, January 13, 2008

Credit Card Fraud Outbreak in Park Slope?

The Park Slope Parents email list is blazing with emails going back and forth from Park Slope residents that have been victimized by credit card fraud. There seems to be a pattern of card data is being copied and fake credit cards being made. Then, charges start showing up from places like gas stations, WalMarts and Targets, many of them far from New York City. The problem seems to have developed or worsened in the last 6-8 weeks and it applies to both credit cards and debit cards, the latter being especially bad news because there is far less anti-fraud protection on many ATM/debit cards. A number of the people reporting the problems speculate that the trouble is originating locally.

If the credit card companies involved weren't already looking into the fraud, this many victims coming forward (there are nearly two dozen "me too" emails so far) should allow them to quickly triangulate where the fraud is originating. (Some incidents appear to have happened earlier in the year, however.) Many of the victims seem to believe the problem is originating with a business in the Slope, although there's a possibility it could be coming from within the credit card companies themselves or from online purchases. Even if the cases aren't related at all, they show how widespread the problem is when people start comparing notes. Here are some samples from emails, starting with the one that started the emails flowing:
Credit Card Fraud-is the source a Park Slope restaurant? It is too weird to be a coincidence that a number of us in and around Park Slope have had the EXACT SAME problems with our VISA cards over the past 6 - 8 weeks. We had two VISA cards (Bank of America and Schwab) "hit" in mid-December with charges at gas stations in Florida and Texas. THEN we had the REPLACEMENT Bank of America VISA card hit again this past week with fraudulent charges at Target, WalMart, and Home Depot in the Philadelphia area. We are just waiting to see if the Schwab card gets hit again in the next week or so.

At first, we also suspected construction workers but this most recent episode occurred after the construction finished. We have reviewed our statements for the two cards and at this point, the only commonality we can find are charges at some of our local merchants/restaurants. I do not want to name the "suspects" at this time but I'm curious if anyone else has seen such a pattern.
And, here are a few excerpts of responses:
we had several $75 charges made to our Citbank credit/debit card at a couple of different gas stations in Florida. The card was in our possession at the time. But I think that before we start suspecting someone in the neighborhood we need to know just how widespread this practice is; maybe people in California are having the same experience, who knows?

I thought I'd give you the details of the ones on my card: $75 12/05 at Sunshine in Hialeah, FL, which I'm told is a gas station. The earlier charges (7/24-7/25) were at Kroger, KMart and Walmart in Lapeer, Michigan; Walmart Supercenters in Burton / Flint MI, Walgreens in Whitehall OH and BP Oil in Columbus OH. These guys really went on a spending spree-the total charges were $4900.

Another one here: our credit card was used for a $75 charge at gas stations in Florida over Christmas; we were told that it was swiped although the card was still in our possession. Is credit card fraud so widespread that this could really be a coincidence? It seems unlikely.
And, here are a few more:
Citibank called us tonight and one of our cards was hit. First with a $10 charge at home depot in New Jersey and then a $700 charge at a Smart Bargins in Florida both charges are not even posted our online statements yet. This was a citibank mastercard. hmmm

Us too, although in our case it was a Citibank MC that we haven't used in a long time, probably the past year. Citibank said it has been happening a lot (gas station in Florida, etc.) so I suspect that it is a Citibank issue/security breach, not a local merchant. I am surprised at the extent of this fraud though - perhaps Citibank needs to send a letter out to its clients about it.
It does appear, though, that the fraud could be originating internally at a credit card company rather than (or in addition to) in Park Slope. The pattern should be a simple one for investigators to track if there is one.

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29 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

These details show that it is impossible to deter a fraud boom until banks make signature and PIN systems reliable as proposed on website www.xwave.co.uk to deter anyone from getting tempted to misuse our STOLEN personal and card details.



Fake documents has made our signature system unreliable while skimmers and pin-hole cameras etc. have made PIN system unreliable. We have option to make signatures reliable by personalising them with ID stickers and option to use Card Key Code to make PIN system reliable to make use of stolen and skimmed cards meaningless. By ignoring to exploit this system banks are only letting bad problems get worse.



Since ID KEY system will deter fraud by making signature and PIN systems reliable it will eliminate the need for us to protect our personal and PIN details since fraudsters will not get tempted to misuse them.



Proposed ID KEY can be treated as a reliable international ID card because it will personalise signature and PIN number to only the right individuals in any country.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Red Hook said...

This sounds like card skimming.

If you don't know what this is, it's when an employee at a restaurant (or other type of business) takes your card and "skims" it through their own card reader after running it through the credit machine of the merchant. They then get paid a certain amount of money for the number of cards skimmed. Someone higher up on the criminal food chain then makes cloned cards with your information.

If all of these Park Slope folks compare their statements, they may find the business where this is occurring.

Note, though, that usually skimming operations wait quite awhile to use your information so as to make it more difficult to detect the source. You may have to compare six months of your bills and others to find the one common merchant used on all the cards.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Damn, I need to link up with these people, I must have gotten hit by the same place. I live in PS as well, and got hit with a series of charges from gas stations (in the amounts of $75 and $100) adding up to $425. I'm going to have to through my statements and see what local merchants I've used it at, but I don't use it that much, so its gotta be pretty easy to narrow down.

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

let's go let start the list!

9:18 PM  
Anonymous SD said...

I just had this happen to me on Saturday. The charges were from gas stations and Wal-Marts in FL. I live in Brooklyn Heights. This has also happened to my fiance and a few friends who all live in Brooklyn Heights.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It started with my Citibank card - a few gas station hits on Long Island. A month later, quite a few gas station hits in Miami on my Amex card - all in the $75 range. Amex called when someone tried to purchase $8K in furniture somewhere in Florida. My cards were not lost, but probably skimmed. I live in Brooklyn Heights and am becoming highly suspect of Target. I'll bet we've all shopped there. But who really knows?

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure if this was just par slope. I work in DUMBO and 3 people in my company have also all been hit by very large WalMart purchases. I was hit with one for $400, and others hit for $750.

Right at Christmas time too. Good time to be out $$. That sucked.

And I have not been to Park Slope for a while

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Paula said...

Our Citibank card also shows fraudulent charges -- to Domino's Pizza and Sushi Tatsu -- both in Brooklyn.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My friend just emailed me this site. Thank you so much. I too, living in Park Slope, was the victim of credit card fraud, all charges occurred on 12/30/07 at Walmart and Walgreens in FLA, while my VISA card was in my possession. I was also told by the credit card fraud investigation unit that there was proof of a duplicate copy made and having been swiped for purchases. Please keep us posted on anything you learn. Thank you.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous RockerGirl77 said...

Thanks to this write-up, I just checked my account and found that I got hit as well. I started a thread about it on the PS Message Board (that you don't have to be a parent to read or join) here:

http://www.brooklynian.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=40119

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How ironic--a few weeks ago I went into Target and since my card wouldn't swipe, they refused to let me use it, although they could have done it manually and I had ample ID.

12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just got a call from Citi, telling me that my MasterCard had been "compromised" and that they had to cancel it. There doesn't appear to have been any unauthorized use, however. I live in Cobble Hill.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any way to set us a "vote," where we could all check off places where we've used our cards? I got the call from citi today - the second call in 2 months, not to mention my other card too! It's annoying.

Don't forget to change any auto payments you might have billed to your card (like Time Warner or Verizon)

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happened to me too: Citibank Mastercard, Texas gas station charge, I live in Park Slope...

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My citi debit card was hit with 10 $1 authorizations about 2 months ago that became 8 charges for $100 each from Walmart gas and 2 for $100 from Texaco - all in Texas. Citi was good about reversing the charges once I faxed in a letter. I live in Brooklyn Heights.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was also hit for a $700 Walmart bill in Texas. A few days later I had a $300 charge on a DIFFERENT card.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This happened to me as well with a Wachovia debit card. My card was used for over $1800 in gas stations across Florida. I am still out $1200 while the bank investigates.

If this has happened to you, call the 78th precinct at 718-636-6411. Detective Shy is investigating. He will ask you to submit a list of local businesses where you've used your cards in the past three months.

2:17 PM  
Anonymous beth said...

me too! happened with two of my cards in the past month or so -- both had fraudulent charges at gas stations in Texas. I live in Bklyn Heights.

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

s happened to my husband and I...we are in BH...Amex, citi-visa and mc. We feel cards were probably swiped at a local BH business (that we noticed had quite a bit of turnover during these months). Just our guess..

All gas charges in TX, FL, GA and LA (during Nov and early Dec)...over $3k charged in total

5:11 PM  
Blogger Robert W said...

I caught a guy taking a picture of my credit card with his cell phone (possibly video of me enterring the pin too). He seemed to be friends with the guy behind the counter there actually. By coincidence, this was at a Target store not far frmo brooklyn (Nassau County on Long Island, NY). He had a really top of the line high-tech cell phone with a camera and was talking _about_ what he was doing through his wireless headset as he was doing it -- he even said to the guy on the other end of the line "You gotta be slick about it and get the pin too". The camera on the *back* of th phone was just above the leather cash the phone was in (that is, the phone was in a case, but it was slid just far enough out of the case that the lens was exposed completely).

I wrote a little about it here:

http://robwilkens.com/2007/12/24/attention-visamc-please-remove-stamped-in-numbers-from-cards/

I had tried to get a picture of the guy with my own cell phone, but I was moving as I snapped the picture and it didn't come out good enough.

Fortunately, in that case, it was a commerce bank debit card, and commerce bank was _right_ next door (across the street) from that particular target. I was able to disable and get a brand new card right there and then.

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We live in Connecticut and our Citibank Debit card # got used last week in a purchase for over $2,000 from a Best Buy in Eastern Pennsylvania. Card not lost.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous BH said...

My wife and I live in Brooklyn Heights. Last week a $400 cash advance was posted to my citi credit card from a walmart in Hialeah, FL. A second cash advance was immediately blocked by citi (thankfully). Thought the problem was resovled. Last night three $1.00 charges were posted to my citi atm mastercard at a gas station at a walmart in Hialeah, FL before citi blocked my card. I don't know how much was charged yet but from reading these posts it was probably $100 per transaction. We go out to restuarants in Brooklyn Heights, Dumbo and sometimes to Smith Street. My guess would be that it's a restaurant and not an atm machine (since we never take cash advances from our credit cards). We only go to a handful of resturants so if someone wanted to start a list I am happy to share my list. Very frustrating. I think I'll stick to cash for a while.

11:18 AM  
Anonymous upset_citibank_customer said...

It's not just Brooklyn. I am in Queens. Someone took $1,000 out of the credit line attached to my Citibank debit card on January 30 via an ATM machine in Midtown. Someone obviously made a counterfeit card based on mine, and they either hacked into Citibank customer information or inserted a PIN skimmer somewhere.

Citibank still hasn't credited me back the funds even though I filed a police report. Even though I was still in possession of the card they asked me a million times whether I had lent my card out to someone or told someone my PIN.

12:07 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

I live in Park Slope. I had a $400 charge from a Wal-Mart in Coral Springs, FL. I have the card right here in front of me. How can this happen? This was two weeks ago and Citibank still has not credited me though I've jumped through every hoop imaginable. I called the police.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also experienced a similar situation: Multiple withdrawals for thousands of $$ taken during one transaction from an ATM in Midtown Manhattan. Citibank repeatedly asked me if I lent someone my card, or if someone interrupted my transaction there - EVEN THOUGH I REPEATEDLY TOLD THEM I WAS NEVER AT THAT BRANCH. No response on their part. NYPD (Midtown South Precinct) is investigating this but we are suspecting an inside job with a Citibank employee involved since 1) Card was not lost 2) When we asked for a new card a month ago with a Mastercard logo on it, they insisted it was on its way. After the fraud they claimed they had no record of the request 3) They violated their own policy of not allowing more than $1000 to be taken out of an account via an ATM in one business day - unless there was an employee overriding this. Please post if you have a similar situation so we can compare notes and further this investigation.

9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This just happened to my wife last week - a $50 charge at a Citgo station in Hialeah, Florida. We live in Park Slope and shop at local merchants all the time....

10:35 AM  
Blogger msflux said...

I've experienced card skimming twice in the past several months. Most recently, my card was duped and used for gas and several $100 charges at Walmart. The first time, my debit/credit card was duped and someone took $2,000 out of account via ATM over the course of two days. Bank of America neglected to take all of the fraudulent charges off (by mistake) and they remain on my account. I'll probably be canceling the card.

7:05 PM  
Anonymous satxxkenn said...

All you have to do is report the fraud and the credit card company wil cover it. I don't think it's that big of a deal.

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The exact same thing has just happened to me.

I live in Boston and my card has been used for gas purchases around Tampa, Silver Spring and Ellwood. Each purchase was for around $75 and it was hit all in one day. They made 10 purchases. I'm down over $1300 and it will take over two weeks for the bank to refund the money.

I'm stunned my bank let that many charges go through. The same day my card was being scammed I made a $12 purchase in Boston and it still never flagged on the system.

I'm going to stop using my debit card for everything other than ATM withdrawls at the bank. From now on I'll use a credit card where you get protection and it's not your money that's being stolen.

My bank have been useless. I bank with Citizens.

9:35 AM  

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