ID thieves targeting Plaquemine debit cards

Deidre Cruse

Someone in Florida has used stolen debit card numbers to tap into the accounts of at least 50 people banking in Plaquemine over the past 18 months, Capt. Kenneth Payne reported last week.

Payne said he himself was a victim of a $289 theft over a two-day period. Plaquemine Selectmen Oscar Mellion and Ralph Stassi Jr.’s accounts reportedly also were hit.

“We have talked to the Secret Service about this,” Payne said. “They are investigating the Russian mob or Russian mafia hacking into the internet.”

Whoever is responsible hits the accounts for different amounts -- $10 to $20 to $200 at a time, the captain said.

“Most of the charges add up to about $500,” he said. “I’ve seen a few for $700 and very few over $1,000. That’s when the red flag goes up. The banks have security measures in place.”

The theft occurs in a series of transactions over a one- or two-day period, Payne said.

“They don’t have the card, so some way they are accessing the number of the card,” Payne said. “...If the Secret Service knows how they are accessing the numbers, they aren’t telling us.”

The victims have been customers of all three local banks, Payne said, adding he was certain the scheme was not limited to Plaquemine.

He said the city police have been getting four or five reports in one week, then nothing for two or three weeks.

The local banks have systems in place to identify the problem quickly after it occurs and notify their customers, but do require the victims to file a police report before reimbursing bank accounts for stolen funds, Payne said.

“The bank caught it almost at the same time as me,” he said of his own case. “They have cancelled my debit card. I saw the charges on-line on a Saturday morning. The bank had caught it on Friday, so they have things in place.”

Payne recommended checking accounts on-line to keep an eye out of illegal transactions.

“It’s just debit cards,” he said. “The easiest way for people to try to catch it, if they have access to internet banking, is to check it on a daily basis. That is what we advise them to do, although the banks are doing an excellent job as well.”