Police in Wallingford say they have received more than 200 complaints from victims of a debit card scam in town.
Originally, investigators thought the thefts were from a skimming device scam in which thieves use a card reading mechanism to steal personal information from the magnetic strip. However detectives said the fraud is so widespread they believe a hacker got into a network and grabbed debit card pin numbers and are selling them on the black market.
Detectives are working with federal agencies to determine the exact method of the scam, according to police.
“I got a call on Monday from the fraud department at Webster bank asking me if I made a $400 purchase from the Walmart in Mississippi. I said, gee, I don’t think so I’m sitting in my living room in Connecticut,” said Bob Jacobs.
Jacobs and his wife Sue had nearly $700 stolen from their accounts. They dropped off bank records at the Wallingford Police Department Wednesday and ran into dozens of victims just like them. Others reported fraudulent purchases in states like Louisiana, Florida, even the country of Malaysia.
Police called it a large scale operation and said nothing of this magnitude has ever happened before in Wallingford.
The information was stolen in recent months when the victims used their card to make legitimate purchases, but the bogus charges didn’t start popping up until days before Christmas. Many of the victims shopped at the West Center Marketplace on South Turnpike Road. It’s one of the places police are looking into saying it too may be a victim of the scam.
“We had our cards in our wallets. I mean you really don’t feel safe,” said Sue Jacobs.
Police told at least one victim they could be dealing with an organized crime ring. They released 3 surveillance photos from a Walgreens in Greenwich where one of the fraudulent cards may have been used. The woman and two men are being called persons of interest.
News of the scam has many checking their bank accounts and the victims changing the way they make purchases.
Most of the banks have agreed to reimburse the victims, but some people could be out of the money for another week police said.
“I don’t think I’m going to use a debit card as a debit. I’m going to carry checks or use a regular credit card,” said Jacobs.
Police are now asking all debit card holders who made purchases in Wallingford since October to check their bank accounts. Anyone who finds suspicious charges should call Wallingford police at 203-294-2800.