The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

December 19, 2013

Thieves use Athens debit card to shop in Florida

ATHENS — Athens resident Tim Belue was stunned last week when his credit union called to ask if he had just spent a bundle of money at a Walmart in Plant City, Fla.

Belue was stunned, in part, because not only had he not ventured to Florida, he hadn’t even left the house.

Turns out, a thief electronically stole his debit card information after his wife used it Friday at an Athens restaurant.  The credit union noticed a problem and called about 2 p.m. Sunday, said Tim’s wife, Monica. But, by then, the thief had made at least 10 purchases using the Belue debit card, racking up a total theft of $500.

“They had a heyday,” Monica said as she reviewed her bank statement Wednesday. 

The credit union covered the theft but this experience and two previous ones have made Monica want to stick with cash in the future.

Police in Florida believe they have surveillance video of the thieves that used the Belues debit card information. However, in many cases, thieves use stolen information to shop online, Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said.

“We have had several reports where these thieves send an email to companies and businesses and when the recipient opens it, it downloads malware  (malicious software) onto their computer that forwards credit and debit card information to the thieves,” Johnson said.

So, what is a shopper to do?

“In this situation, I think the only thing a person can do is be aware and check their (bank) account daily,” Johnson said.

“A victim needs to notify their bank or financial institution as soon as possible if they think their card or account number has been compromised,” he said.


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