ASHTABULA, Ohio - Jeff Schork lives, and does his banking, in Ashtabula County. But a recent trip to Virginia resulted in his debit card being frozen to avoid a potential fraud scheme.
"Key Bank was very instrumental in letting me know that a charge had appeared on my card," Schork said. "It was a little inconvenient, but a better inconvenience than having thousands charged against my account."
Schork's card was frozen and then reissued when Key Bank security systems identified a suspicious charge traced to a Virginia hotel, which Schork and his wife had visited for a wedding.
Schork said there is no way of knowing exactly how his card number was compromised, but he could have been the victim of a new technologically-enabled scam that is resulting in fraud claims and identity theft.
The fraud is perpetrated by computer-savvy thieves who set up temporary, bogus Wi-Fi hotspots that provide access to the Internet through the crook's computers. Specialized software allows the chiselers to capture account numbers, passwords and other personal information, which are then used later to commit crimes.
Key Bank would not discuss the Schork case in detail, but said they are well aware of the scheme.
"Generally speaking, we tell consumers to be careful of the various Wi-Fi sites that they use," said Doug Twining, Key Bank Director of Strategic Fraud Services.
While demonstrating how the ploy is orchestrated, Internet security expert Apolonio Garcia warned that the false Wi-Fi access points may be hard to distinguish from legitimate connections offered to the public.
"If you're in an airport, you can make it an airport hot spot, if you're in a coffee shop you can make it the name of the coffee shop... In a hotel, you call it hotel Wi-Fi," Garcia said.
To guard against the scam, consumers are warned to refrain from entering credit card or account numbers on any Wi-Fi network that is unfamiliar and not password protected.
Banking officials also urge customers to review all transactions regularly, and validate monthly statements and to notify the bank or credit card issuer immediately in the case of any discrepancy.