Rash of attempted credit card thefts due to possible hacker going unreported to law enforcement

Photo provided by MGN Online
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - 9:00am

Over the past week, banks and credit card companies have made calls to dozens, if not hundreds, of Baton Rouge residents.

“Someone tried to spend almost $700 at a Wal-Mart in Massachusetts,” one victim told NBC33 News. “Chase stopped it before it could go through.”

Although most have of the victims were notified before the charges were possessed, some have not been so lucky and are out between $500 to $1,000.

“We have some victims who have reported the thefts,” stated Cpt. Lee Rice, East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office Financial Crimes Division, said. “We are working on a lead at a local business right now.”

Determining what type of breach has occurred can be difficult for investigators, especially when they only have a few victims' accounts.

“It is beneficial for everyone to report an attempted theft,” Cpt. Rice explained. “The more information we have, we can find a pattern of where the cards were used.”

What investigators do know is that at least one breach has occurred, but there could be more. Those who are seeing an attempted charge at a venue in another state are most likely the victim of a hacker who has breached the point-of-sale terminal at a business.

“The way they do that is they add time between when the card information was captured and when it is put in circulation,” Cpt. Rice noted. “They’re trying to build a little time so law enforcement can’t narrow down where the breach came from.”

However, this is not the only way would-be thieves are gaining credit card information. In fact, several recent credit card victims could be coincidentally linked.

“When your card is not in your site that usually leads to a lower-grade of compromise,” Cpt. Rice explained. “They can simply write down your credit card information, or they can use an iPhone to take a picture of the card. Then you have a higher-end guy who can use a card skimmer that can be bought off the Internet.”

Narrowing down potential sources for the compromise will help investigators determine what type of thief is committing the crime.

“The best thing for you to do is to contact the Sheriff’s office and report what happened,” Cpt. Rice said. “You do not have to sit down with law enforcement. You can simply call in the information and let us know what happened and the locations where you’ve recently used your card. You’re basically just calling in a tip.”

Because this threat is currently circulating, the best thing is to be aware and take as many precautions as possible.

“Regularly look at your accounts,” Cpt. Rice said. “A lot of times banks are busy and they may miss that this is going on until thousands of dollars have been taken. If you’re watching your accounts, you can cut the loss down to the bare minimum.

“Also, don’t let your card leave your sight,” he continued. “If you’re going to pay with a credit card, follow where it’s going. You have no idea what’s happening with your card when it’s out of your sight. Although 99 percent of people are honest, there is still that bad element.”

As for local business owners, Cpt. Rice advises changing the encryption regularly at the point-of-sale terminals, which will cut the pipeline of information created by the hacker.

“As long as that breach is still open and there’s no security measures taken by the owner, the attempts will continue,” Cpt. Rice said.

If you have had an attempted theft on your credit or debit card, you should call the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office at (225) 389-5000.

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