New Debit Card Fraud CaseSpreads

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FRESNO, Calif. - (02/14/06) -- Dozens of credit unions and banks innorthern California have been canceling their debit cards over thepast few weeks as customers keep reporting unauthorizedtransactions on their accounts being conducted overseas fromcountries like Russia, Lithuania, Spain, South Korea and England.Authorities have traced the fraud to the apparent theft of customerinformation from two undisclosed national retailers which is beingused to tap into credit union members and bank customers accounts,according to Scot Ingram, a spokesman for Education Employees CU,one of the institutions that has been hit. Dozens of EECU membersreported unauthorized transactions at the end of January, afterwhich the credit union immediately blocked the accounts and issuednew cards, said Ingram. "All of this happened within a 24-hourperiod," Ingram told The Credit Union Journal, identifying Jan. 30as the day. EECU notified all members who had transacted businessat the two retailers, about 4,200, and issued them new cards. About$22,000 in fraudulent transactions took place on EECU accounts fromplaces like Russia, Spain, England and the U.S., and another$33,000 worth of transactions were unsuccessfully attempted afterthe cards were blocked. Among the other institutions that have beenhit by the fraud are The Golden One CU, United Local CU, Bank ofAmerica, Washington Mutual, and Wells Fargo, according to JanetStoll-Lee, a spokesman for the Clovis (Calif.) Police Department,which is investigating the case. The case has been turned over tothe FBI, which estimates as many as 200,000 debit card accounts mayhave been compromised in the case, which may rival the BJ'sWholesale case of two years ago as the biggest incident of onlinetheft. Meantime, credit unions all over the country have beenreporting similar claims of overseas criminals draining memberaccounts. Central Florida Educators CU said it cancelled over twodozen cards last week after unauthorized withdrawals were reportedcoming from the Ukraine. And Aggieland CU, in Bryan, Texas,cancelled dozens of cards last week after members reported cash hasbeen withdrawn from their accounts in Russia andLithuania.

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