Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tales of Credit Card Fraud Mount, Mystery Grows

We're confident that some of the victims of the credit card fraud that first surfaced via emails in the Park Slope Parents group are figuring out whether there is any commonality in local merchants. So far, nearly five dozen cases of counterfeit cards being made and used around the country have been related via emails on GL, the Park Slope Parents groups, a thread at Brooklynian.com and in private emails that we have received. The PSP group is refusing to post the identity of some local merchants that victims have mentioned and the person that started the thread on Brooklynian after reading GL's post has also requested that people not speculate. We agree that it's wrong to damage the reputation of a business based on conjecture. We can draw some general conclusions, however, based on the dozens of emails we've read:

1) The credit card fraud is not confined to Park Slope. There is a cluster of reported incidents from Brooklyn Heights residents in particular. A few victims say that hadn't used their cards in Park Slope at all.
2) The fraud isn't limited to any one card issuer. While there is a concentration of cases linked to Citibank, cards from multiple banks and credit card companies are involved.
3) There could be more than one employee of a single business and more than one business involved. Based on emails, it is possible the source is a business with multiple locations.
4) The fraud has involved both credit cards and debit cards, and in some cases thousands of dollars in charges have occurred.

In the meantime, here's a bit from one PSP email:
Since the PSP board is rejecting posts with the names(s) of merchants they believe have been resposnsible for CC fraud. Its worrisome to know that this is happening and that I have no way of even trying to protect myself despite the fact that others are willing to share their information."...it's entirely possible or likely that the merchants have been hacked without their knowledge, and are no more responsible for the situation than their customers. Absent any hard proof beyond speculation, I'm sure you can appreciate how unfair it would be to announce to some 7,000 people in the area that Merchant X is not to be trusted; it could easily be a death sentence for a small business that has done nothing wrong--and may have been identified mistakenly in the first place.

In the meantime, there is plenty you can do to protect yourself. Only use bank ATMs. Pay only with credit cards, not debit cards--or, ideally, use cash instead. Put a freeze on your credit report, as has been explained earlier. And keep in mind that, as one of the fastest-growing areas of crime, credit card fraud and identity theft
are a much bigger problem than a single breach in a single store; these are all measures we should be taking anyway, regardless of the current suspicions...
Judging from the outpouring of emails and postings, there have been a lot of incidents. Until the some sources are identified, it would be best to keep a special watch on one's account, particularly if a debit card is used.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the Brooklynian board there is interesting speculation that some of this could also be fraud by harvesting info from RFID technology embedded in the cards, in addition to the possibility of a swipe/cloning operation at some businesses.

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happened to me (and two of my friends). Someone copied my ATM/check card and used it to buy over $1000 in gas all over Florida. As much as my bank assures me that this is common, the fact that this has happened to this many people in this neighborhood over the past few weeks certainly makes me suspicious. Have the other people filed police reports?

9:02 PM  

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