Monday, August 14, 2006

Money Disappearing From Checking Accounts, Again

Bob Sullivan writes in The Red Tape Chronicles:

There is a new reason to think twice about using your debit card when you go shopping. Criminals have managed to steal ATM account information and PINs from shoppers at Dollar Tree stores in western states.

The U.S. Secret Service says it is investigating. Visa Inc. says it is too. No one will say how widespread the crime spree is, but here’s a hint -- 150 consumers who shopped at a Dollar Tree store in Modesto, Calif., have told local police that a total of $170,000 has been stolen from their accounts. Similar reports have trickled in from Ashland, Ore., some 350 miles to the north.

It appears criminals are using stolen data to create counterfeit ATM cards, then using stolen PINs to withdraw money from victims’ accounts. This kind of theft is far more serious than credit card fraud, because the money instantly disappears from victims’ accounts, and it’s up to victims to call their banks and get it back. And after 60 days, victims lose their right to refunds. That’s much different from credit card frauds, which simply require consumers to call and have items removed from their bills.

And don’t forget – while victims and banks sort all this out, consumers often lose access to their checking account money. One victim I heard from said he was traveling, and suddenly couldn’t access his cash. Banks often try to paint this kind of crime as painless for consumers. It’s not.

More here.


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