The past few days have been harrowing. It started with a call to my son from our credit union's fraud investigation service. When we travel and use our debit cards, they usually call and make sure it's us making purchases in atypical places. I appreciate this service. Since my son had just traveled back to school from IL to VA, I assumed they were calling about the charges on his newly activated debit card. [Note: The previous debit card was just deactivated as a precaution due to compromised information. This is not unusual, and is a safety measure. It also adds to the bitter irony of this tale.] So, I encourage him to call, feeling that it will be a check in.
In the last week a variety of charges had been made at a Wal Mart near Indianapolis, each a little over $100, totalling almost $500. $500 of his McDonalds-minimum-wage-job money. $500 of his hard-earned money for books and incidentals at school. HIS money. From the kid that, if you needed $100, he would give it to you. The money has been recovered. The feeling of being robbed? That will linger for a lifetime.
Now, these criminals are quite smart. So this blog post is more about providing fair warning to others. Lessons from this situation:
1. It is believed that the criminal(s) skimmed his card at a gas station pump in Centerville, IN. The local manager sent a person out to check the pump. This person returned about 2 minutes later, saying there was no skimmer at the pump. My husband spoke with the district manager, who took this VERY seriously. They have complaints of fraud from 3 people that come down to that same station.
The pump was one that was fairly far from the entrance, yet still under camera surveillance. The gas station pumps are also open 24 hours, even when the store is closed. They are reviewing camera footage with local law enforcement. He said that, having dealt with these things quite a bit at his level, he goes in and pre-pays for pumps that are that far away from human eye. Good advice!
2. The local WalMart management was marginally helpful. Higher management assistance needed to happen. They are scanning their cameras and working to determine what occurred.
Our first question was, "How can these purchases be made without his card?" Apparently, the magnetic strip can be scanned, and a new card can be made. Many times, they are made with a stolen pre-paid card, and criminals program the card to take money from the scanned account. Then they sell the card for less than its value. So a warning to those who might buy cards for less than their face value. This might be a scam.
3. If you use a credit or debit that does not have the fraud alert that ours did, check your statements carefully.
All for now. Stay tuned.