Local authorities say residents are still being victimized by credit card fraud that, in many cases, can be traced to local businesses’ hacked computer systems.
As the Bishop Police Department continues its investigation, authorities are advising residents to use cash or checks whenever possible to protect their financial information from cybercrime hackers.
“We’re still getting reports on a day-to-day basis,” Bishop PD Public Information Officer Katie Coffman said. “It’s been slowing down some over the past couple weeks, but we’re still seeing about six reports, or more, a day.”
Coffman said the PD has taken more than 300 reports on credit and debit card fraud since March 5.
“This is still going on in our general area,” Coffman said, adding that she took a report Monday morning where a resident had his or her information compromised as recently as March 19. “In every case, the credit card companies and banks are making every effort to reimburse people,” Coffman said.
Coffman said that she has been advised by some residents that their credit card companies have flagged the area and are paying close attention to activity on residents’ cards.
The investigation into local credit card thefts has been handed over to the Federal Trade Commission, and Coffman said the PD is continuing its efforts to educate the community and business owners in an effort to reduce the thefts.
The PD has also stepped forward to be the lead agency in the area on the investigation. Coffman said that the PD is taking any and all reports of credit and debit card theft from throughout the county in an effort to ensure that the FTC has one direct line of communication with local law enforcement.
Through its investigation, the PD said a majority of the fraud seems to have began with purchases at Vons, Smart & Final or Dwayne’s Friendly Pharmacy.
When news of the widespread theft of debit and credit card information went public in early March, Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter said it is important for residents to know that the thefts are the work of thieves using computers to hack credit card information from businesses, and the local businesses themselves are not to blame.
“These crimes are not the fault of any of these merchants and do not appear to have been committed by employees of the businesses,” Carter said.
“Dwayne’s (Friendly Pharmacy) has done quite a bit to prevent this,” Coffman said. “They’re revamped their computer system, and we haven’t had any new complaints from (customers of) Dwayne’s.”
Coffman said the PD has also been in contact with Vons Corporate Security, but she was unaware of any actions the company has taken to prevent the theft of credit and debit card numbers.
“We don’t know how long this investigation is going to take,” Coffman said. “The best thing you can do is use discretion” when using credit and debit cards. “Some areas have a problem, but we can’t say every place has a problem, because we don’t know.”
Carter previously noted that reports of similar “cybercrimes” are on the rise nationwide.
“They best way to protect yourself, if you can, is to use checks or cash whenever you can,” Coffman said. “It’s kind of like going back to the old ways,” but it could keep private information from being accessed by hackers.