By Cathy Locke
The Roseville Police Department is advising consumers to carefully monitor their banking and credit card transactions, citing an unusual number of local cases in which thieves have collected credit card numbers and used them to fraudulently make purchases.
"We believe there have been at least 200 victims who have experienced fraudulent credit card activity, and that number is growing," said Dee Dee Gunther, police department spokeswoman.
The earliest of the cases under investigation appears to date back to March, she said. The pattern became apparent last week, when lending institutions contacted the department after noting that many of the credit card fraud victims at some time over the past several months used their credit cards at Roseville restaurants that use the same third-party credit processing service.
Because the investigation is ongoing, Gunther said, police are not releasing the names of the restaurants involved. She said detectives are busy returning calls to victims to find out where and when their credit cards were used, and whether they are connected to this case.
Authorities don't know whether local individuals were involved in the fraud, or whether cyber-criminals elsewhere found a way to hack into the electronic process.
Police said its appears that victims' credit card numbers were compromised electronically at some point between the point of sale and the data processing service that relays transactions between merchants and their customers' lending institutions. When criminals collect credit card information electronically, they typically sell the information to other criminals, who then use the credit card number to manufacture false credit cards or to purchase items online.
Because of the scope of the investigations, the Roseville Police Department is working with the U.S. Secret Service, which conducts initial investigations into financial crimes, Gunther said. Several financial institutions have alerted their customers that their credit cards were, or may have been, compromised and have taken steps to protect the card holders.
"Although we don't have all the answers yet, we want to notify the public, especially diners in our area, to be especially vigilant about monitoring their credit cards for signs of fraud," Gunther said.
Police advise consumers who notice unauthorized, or attempted unauthorized transactions to:
* Immediately notify the lending institution of the potential compromise.
* Ask the lending institution to block the old credit card and issue a new one with a new number.
* File a report with a local law enforcement agency.
* Continue to closely monitor credit card transactions, and if fraud has occurred, place a fraud alert with the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Lending institutions may already have a plan to provide that service for their customer.
Although criminals are able to use stolen credit card numbers temporarily, police said, financial institutions usually will be able to reimburse customers for their losses and block the account from future intrusions using the compromised credit card numbers.
To contact the three major credit reporting bureaus call: Equifax, (800) 685-1111; Experian (888) 397-3742; and TransUnion, (800) 916-8800.
Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.
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