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TOWN:Swiped -- another victim of credit fraud

ON THE

November 15, 2006|By STEVE SMITH

On Oct. 12, I flew to Las Vegas to attend a small reunion of some college buddies. I've known a few of them for about 40 years, and we were on a road trip to play some poker.

We did play — for about an hour.

My friends and I spent the entire time inside at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, two of us leaving for about an hour to shop at the Mirage.

I retuned home on Oct. 14. On Oct. 31, I made a routine online review of one checking account and noticed that about $1,240 had been taken without my permission through four transactions in Las Vegas a few days earlier.

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I immediately called my financial institution and told them what happened.

"You'll have to come in and file an affidavit of fraud," they told me.

Two days later, the financial institution reimbursed me for my loss.

Some readers may be aware of the large number of debit card PINs that were stolen in early October. Apparently, the numbers were taken in Orange County, and the withdrawals occurred about three weeks later in Las Vegas.

The ironic part for me was that I happened to be in Las Vegas at the time the numbers were stolen. So when I saw the withdrawals from my account with Las Vegas origins, I assumed that it was a Vegas crime.

My next call was to the Mandalay Bay Hotel to inform them that there may be someone in the hotel stealing PINs. A nice fellow in the security department took the report and said someone may be calling.

That was two weeks ago — no call.

Although this story is still evolving, there are some facts we know.

There are about 450 victims. Many of the thefts occurred at a gas station in Westminster, and the total theft is more than $50,000.

One victim quoted in the Daily Pilot believes that her PIN was stolen while paying for gas at an outside pump.

I'm not so sure. You see, for a long time, I have been very careful about covering up my PIN when entering it at a point-of-purchase machine.

In fact, I can remember only one time this year when I did not cover up the PIN pad. I was tired and let my guard down. Interestingly, that transaction was at another location of the same chain of gas stations as the one suspected in the Westminster transactions.

Still, I do not yet know for certain when or where the number was stolen.

If the numbers were stolen by someone peeking at a PIN pad, I can deal with that. But if they were taken by retrieving the data through some electronic means, we are all in big trouble.

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