As economy weakens, credit card fraud on the rise

Published on Thu, Mar 19, 2009 by Jack Kintner

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Reports of credit card fraud to the Blaine Police have tripled over the past couple of months but so far investigators have not connected it to any specific local business or criminal source.

After an on-going joint investigation by Chief Mike Haslip and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, Haslip said that “[The increase in reports] seem to be connected to the Heartland security breach last fall, when over 100 million VISA and Mastercard accounts may have been breached.”

Last month, Arlene Jackson of North Vancouver had her VISA credit card withdrawn by the Royal Bank of Canada after using it in Blaine.
“Seems I used it someplace where someone was making duplicate cards. The RBC would not tell me where the incident occurred but the only time I used my card was at the Chevron service station at H street and the Truck Route [Highway 543],” she said.

Attorney Len Saunders said both his wife and her parents had unauthorized charges on their cards and the only common point of use for both was at the Yorky’s Market at 8839 Blaine Road.

Saunders said his wife had a $300 charge in Victoria after which the bank froze her card. “We didn’t find out about it until the card was declined at Paso Del Norte on March 7,” he said. Her parents had several thousand dollars charged to their card in Florida.

Haslip said that despite the common threads “It doesn’t look like there’s any one business involved. It was an internal theft at Heartland, and banks nationwide are having to advise their customers that they believe their cards might have been compromised. One of the police department employees even got a notification.”

Haslip said that the standard caveats still apply. “Be watchful of your credit card statements, question transactions, and do not divulge personal information over e-mail, only with personal contact. A legitimate bank won’t ask you for personal information unless they are personally in touch with you,” Haslip said.

Heartland has set up a website to deal with the theft at www.2008breach.com. A bill is also working its way through the state legislature that will address the legal and financial liabilities of companies who do not have sufficient safeguards in place for this kind of identity theft, Haslip said.