Identity Theft Scam At Albertson’s Grocery Stores

CBS Chicago
4/23/2007 – (CBS) CHICAGO A new identity theft scam targets shoppers who use debit cards at grocery stores. So far, shoppers in the San Francisco Bay area have been hit by the scam, but as CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports, it is a crime that is highly portable and could easily move to the Chicago area.

Shopping, swiping and inserting a personal identification number, or PIN, instead of paying cash it’s become a way of life for consumers. It has also become the latest way identity thieves are stealing your money.

The convenience of debit cards has cost 120 customers thousands of dollars while shopping at two Albertson’s grocery stores in Alameda, Calif. Albertson’s was once owned by the same corporation that owns the Jewel Foods stores in the Chicago area.

Detectives say a credit card reader was rigged to steal debit accounts and PIN numbers from shoppers’ ATM cards. The thieves were then able to withdraw money from the customers’ bank accounts. California detectives believe the thieves replaced the real machines with phony ones.

“Somebody can come in when nobody’s around, unplug this machine, undo two thumb screws, pull it off and put their own machine in and plug it in and let it sit there because it looks like the original machines,” said Greg Swetnam of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

Officials said the criminals could have gotten access to the machines as part of an inside job, or as an outside contractor.

They could be posing as an employee of some sort either working for the card reader or for the cash register company.

Although they are no longer in the same corporate family, CBS 2 asked Jewel officials if the local stores use the same credit card readers that were compromised in California, but got a “no comment” to that question.

However, the company did issue an statement that says “we take careful precautions in protecting the personal information of our customers by consistently monitoring and performing maintenance to increase that effectiveness.”

Meanwhile, store managers in California say they have replaced or upgraded credit card readers in all their stores.

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