BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio - Credit card and debit card users beware. There's been a rash of fraudulent charges, and police are now investigating how this happened.
Kelly Jacobs makes it a habit to check her online bank account. That's how she realized her accounts were hit by thieves.
Her husband's debit card was targeted first, then hers.
“Large transactions at Target and random gas stations,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs reported more than $675 in fraudulent charges to police. Five On Your Side found this happened to more than a dozen other cardholders in Broadview Heights. Their debit or credit cards were used all over the country and world including Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil, and Paris, France.
Cardholders are now frantically closing their accounts, and changing their automatic payments for everything from student loans to the electric bill.
"I missed my friend's nephews memorial because I couldn’t access the funds in my account to put gas in my car. Yeah, we'll get our money back but it's been a difficult week,” Jacobs explained.
Possible break in the case?
Banks are working with customers to help them get their accounts back in order quickly while police investigate how this happened.
It's believed a card reader or skimming device captured the account information of these victims. Police believe the device was added to a gas station or ATM in Broadview Heights, but are not sure which location.
Police sources tell me there may be a break in this case. Westlake Police made an arrest and found equipment used to steal account information. Now, those skimming / card reading devices will be analyzed to see if the account numbers match up with the ones used fraudulently in Broadview Heights.
“They get more and more clever the thieves do and I now it’s hard for law enforcement to keep up,” Jacobs explained. “If they don’t catch people and it’s this easy, it will keep happening.”
The Five On Your Side Consumer Team also learned a skimmer was found in the trash can at a bank ATM in Fairview Park, and another bank found one in Vermilion.
Investigators do not believe account holders at those two banks had their information used fraudulently.
For now, the victims appear to all live in Broadview Heights.
Tips to protect yourself
"You have to live your life. You have to spend money. I don't know how to do it safely at this point," Jacobs explained.
We spoke with several banks today, and Huntington Bank and Fifth Third offered advice to consumers.
Consumers should inspect the ATM or card reader for anything suspicious like unusual signs, glue, tape, or loose card readers.
Also, keep your PIN private and don't share it with anybody. You can even put one hand over the one you are using to type in your PIN at an ATM so nobody can see it. Some skimming type operations use cameras to capture your PIN as you type it into the ATM.
Don't use obvious codes for your PIN like your date of birth or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
When you are shopping online, use URLs that are secure. You can tell by looking for a lock at the bottom of the webpage and look at the URL. The "s" in https indicates a secure site.
If your card is not returned after the transaction or pressing cancel, call the ATM's owner and immediately report the problem to your bank.
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