Scam Victim: 'I'm afraid to use my card now'
LAFAYETTE, WALKER COUNTY (WRCB)- It turns out a debit card scam in North Georgia might be more of a widespread problem than initially thought.
Eyewitness News has learned federal investigators are involved with fraud cases, reported in North Georgia. And now, even some of the banks are speaking out!
Channel 3 initially received complaints from banking customers in LaFayette, some saying their accounts have been completely drained.
After talking with LaFayette police, it appears this is the work of organized criminals.
"It's frustrating that your information's vulnerable," says Tina Suggs.
Suggs banks with Cohutta Banking Company in LaFayette. Wednesday, two charges were made to her account out of New York.
"Immediately I canceled my card and as soon as the bank opened at 8 o'clock I called the bank," Suggs says. "And, you know, they were all over it."
The WRCB Facebook page received a flood of reports from customers, claiming their accounts were hacked after using their debit cards.
For Tina and other victims, the timing is no coincidence.
"The banks were gonna be closed on Thursday, a little less likely that, you know, we're gonna be able to get in there and get answers quick," Suggs says. "So probably somebody that knows what they're doing."
LaFayette police echo that thought. They believe someone stole info from the company that handles the card transactions and say it is not tied to one store.
They have heard of fraud reports coming in from Rossville, Trion and Chickamauga.
In the meantime, local banks are speaking out.
In a release sent to the Channel 3 Newsroom, Cohutta Banking Company states: "We are investigating the situation and have reported the incident to Visa, who will investigate further. We reissued new debit cards to all affected customers on Wednesday. Based on our research, we also reissued debit cards to all customers who might have been affected by the incident."
"I'll get my money back, but that's not the point," Suggs says. "The point is that I'm afraid to use my card now."
Police say charges have also been reported in Canada and Mexico, which is why the G.B.I. and F.B.I. are now investigating the case.
Police urge victims to contact law enforcement and file a report.
FULL STATEMENT FROM COHUTTA BANKING COMPANY:
"Customers in the LaFayette area began contacting us on Wednesday, regarding fraudulent transactions on their accounts. We are investigating the situation and have reported the incident to Visa, who will investigate further. We reissued new debit cards to all affected customers on Wednesday. Based on our research, we also reissued debit cards to all customers who might have been affected by the incident.
As an ongoing precaution and in order to minimize the impact of potential fraud, customers should look at their bank statements as soon as they arrive. Or, better yet, review their account frequently via online banking or by phone. They should promptly report any unauthorized transaction to the bank. Quick attention to the problem may help the bank locate the source of the compromise and give law enforcement authorities a head start on stopping the thief." - Tonia Kendrick, Executive Vice President, Cohutta Banking Company
STATEMENT FROM TENNESSEE VALLEY FEDERAL CREDIT UNION:
"Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union would like to reassure their members that they have not experienced a breach and their systems remain secure. 'Unfortunately, this is another case of fraudulent activity that we and other financial institutions typically see more of during the holiday season. Whenever you use your debit or credit card at a merchant or on-line there is always that very small chance someone out there will obtain that information from those sources and use it in a fraudulent manner,' says W. Blake Strickland, the Credit Union's President & CEO. 'As always, we strongly encourage everyone to monitor their accounts on a daily basis and let their financial institution know right away if there are unauthorized transactions.'" - John Merritt, Vice President of Marketing, TVFCU
STATEMENT FROM THE BANK OF LAFAYETTE:
"We have had some unusual fraudulent activity on debit card usage. We are in the process of investigating for patterns of use to get all the facts involved in this situation. We have contacted our debit card processor and they are investigating on their end. As always, we encourage customers to monitor their accounts and if they notice any unusual activity contact us as soon as possible. At any time customers may lower their debit card limits or have their cards blocked and order new cards. We are always interested in protecting the security of our customers accounts." - Jim Ingram, Vice President, The Bank of LaFayette