Aug 25, 2015

Criminals hit local credit union's customers; cards reissued as precaution

Several dozen members of Sunlight Federal Credit Union had money temporarily siphoned from their accounts by out-of-state criminals last week. The credit union — which has locations in Powell, Cody, Worland and Sheridan — took the precautionary step of reissuing all of its members’ debit cards in response.

Rather than trying to block certain transactions in certain states, “we thought it was a better thing just to ... shut them all down and start fresh,” Sunlight Federal Credit Union President Cindy Bennett said Monday of the proactive approach.

Roughly 50-60 members had unauthorized purchases, apparently made with counterfeit debit cards, Bennett said. The credit union has already replaced the money in each of those affected member’s accounts. Bennett also noted it was the cards, and not the accounts themselves, that were compromised.

Around a half-dozen people reported the fraudulent charges to the Powell Police Department and the Park County Sheriff’s Office between last Tuesday and Friday.

“Apparently, most of it occurred in the Houston, Texas, area,” Powell Police Lt. Alan Kent said.
Because the illegal purchases took place so far away kind of ties the hands of police, but “what we’re going to try and do is see if we can’t find a local agency down there (in Texas) to work with us — and maybe they can have boots on the ground and go do some of the legwork,” Kent said.

As Bennett understands it, the perpetrators of the scheme created some bogus debit cards and “got lucky” in managing to insert the numbers of some Sunlight Federal Credit Union’s accounts. She’s been told by experts that there’s been a bigger push in that type of fraud because more secure, microchipped cards are being implemented around the country.

“Apparently, most of it occurred in the Houston, Texas, area,” said Powell Police Lt. Alan Kent.

There was some confusion online and in the community last week because, around the same time that criminals were targeting Sunlight’s members, Pinnacle Bank happened to be reissuing a couple hundred of their debit cards around the state.

The incidents were unrelated.

Carmen Duncan, Pinnacle Bank Vice President for Wyoming in Cody, said one of the bank’s fraud protection services had given them a list of possibly compromised cards; Duncan said the cards appeared to have been compromised when a national merchant suffered some kind of data breach.

While no fraudulent charges had been made on any of Pinnacle’s cards in Wyoming, other cards on the list had been misused in some states, Duncan said. Pinnacle opted to reissue all the possibly compromised cards as a precaution.

“It’s pretty routine for us,” Duncan said of replacing cards due to fraud.

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