Police investigate alarming rates of credit card fraud | SteamboatToday.com

Police investigate alarming rates of credit card fraud

Credit card users in Steamboat Springs should be watching their statements for any unusual charges on their cards after a recent explosion of credit card fraud in the area.

— Many Yampa Valley residents have been getting some bad news from their credit and debit card companies lately.

Police think there may be a common link between what has developed into widespread reports of fraudulent credit card charges.

"It's epidemic levels," Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Jerry Stabile said Thursday.

Since mid-December, about 30 people have reported fraudulent credit and debit card charges to Steamboat police, but that is likely just a fraction of the people who have been impacted. In December, just one Steamboat bank had dealt with 49 cases of credit and debit card fraud.

Police are continuing to investigate why the unauthorized charges are occurring, and they encourage people to report the incidents. This way police can identify where the cards were commonly used.

Steamboat police were not willing to disclose the common businesses where the cards were swiped and possibly compromised because they still are investigating. It still was too early to name specific businesses because they are not certain where the breaches occurred.

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Police are looking at whether some local businesses might have become vulnerable when software was upgraded on point-of-sale systems that businesses use to process credit cards.

Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan confirmed that Hayden police were investigating fraudulent credit card charges that impacted people who used cards at the county-operated Three Wire Bar & Grill restaurant at Yampa Valley Regional Airport. The point-of-sale system at the airport underwent a software upgrade in mid-December.

When asked whether the issue at Three Wire was resolved, Sullivan said, "We've been assured by our software vendor that the system is secure."

Hayden Police Chief Greg Tuliszewski said the issue is widespread, and there have been fraud issues in Craig, and similar things are being reported in Denver.

Police think the card information is being obtained and used to make new counterfeit cards. Those cards then are being used throughout the United States at everything from a Chuck E. Cheese’s, gas stations to large, big-box stores.

"It is happening with very high frequency," said Stabile, who himself had a fraudulent $211 charge on his card that someone used in Georgia.

Numerous people in Steamboat have been targeted several times. There have been reports of people having their original card compromised, and then quickly their replacement card was compromised. And then that replacement card was compromised.

In many cases, card companies have noticed the unusual transactions before the card owners did.

"People right now should be checking their online statements daily," Stabile said.

Local bank officials have said they have been working with customers to get the fraudulent charges taken care of quickly and have the money returned to accounts.

Stabile said they have contacted the United States Secret Service about the incident, and they were waiting to hear back. Local police will continue investigating.

"It's a high priority," Stabile said.

In addition to reporting the incident to local police, Colorado Attorney General spokeswoman Carolyn Tyler encouraged people to report the incidents at http://www.stopfraudcolorado.com.

"We are absolutely interested in hearing about these issues," Tyler said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

The Hayden Police Department issued tips for people to prevent fraud

• Do not give your account number to anyone on the phone unless you have made the call to a company you know to be reputable. If you have never done business with them before, do an online search first for reviews or complaints.

• Carry your cards separately from your wallet. It can minimize your losses if someone steals your wallet or purse. Carry only the card you need for that outing.

• During a transaction, keep your eye on your card. Make sure you get it back before you walk away.

• Never sign a blank receipt. Draw a line through any blank spaces above the total.

• Save your receipts to compare with your statement.

• Open your bills promptly — or check them online often — and reconcile them with the purchases you have made.

• Report any questionable charges to the card issuer.

• Notify your card issuer if your address changes or if you will be traveling.

• Do not write your account number on the outside of an envelope.