Local banks see surge in fraud cases
December 31, 2014
Steamboat Springs — With a surge in fraud, local banks are advising customers to take a close look at their credit and debit card accounts.
Lori St. Pierre, senior vice president of operations for Yampa Valley Bank, said that during December, they had 49 cases of customers having fraudulent charges on their debit cards. During November, they had nine cases. The cases include customers at the Steamboat Springs and Craig branches.
Steamboat Wells Fargo personal banker Alex Osmond said they have seen a 50 percent increase in fraud cases.
"We, too, have seen that significant spike," Osmond said.
Osmond and St. Pierre said they do not know for certain why they are seeing such an increase, but it could be linked to a couple of things.
St. Pierre said there have been significant data breaches at major retailers like Home Depot and Target.
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"There have been a lot more merchants that have had compromises," St. Pierre said.
It also is possible that the customers have been victim to credit and debit card skimming devices. The devices can be placed discreetly on ATM machines where the card is inserted. Thieves even can use skimmer technology to read card information through bags or wallets. The information then can be used to make fraudulent cards.
"There are so many different ways they can get your card number," St. Pierre said.
St. Pierre said Yampa Valley Bank monitors its ATM machines closely, and the bank has not had any cases of skimmers being used.
"It's generally the bigger cities where they are an issue," St. Pierre said. "When customers travel is when they are most at risk."
St. Pierre said the recent frauds have been for relatively small dollar amounts less than $500. It appears fraudulent credit cards are being used at retailers throughout the United States.
St. Pierre said Yampa Valley Bank refunds the customer's money once the dispute process is started.
"We take the proactive approach and give them credit right away while we file the dispute," St. Pierre said.
Banks often use a fraud monitoring service to help protect customers. St. Pierre said that has helped them limit the losses.
Osmond suggested customers use a credit card when possible because it can offer more protection than a debit card.
Banks offer the following advice to customers:
• Monitor accounts regularly online.
• Customers should update their contact information with their banks so they can reach customers about possible fraudulent charges.
• Report any suspicious account activity as soon as it is noticed.
• Be aware of skimming devices and do not use an ATM machine if it looks suspicious. Wires and out-of-place pieces of plastic could signal that a skimmer has been placed on the machine.
• Make sure that ATM machines inside stores are legitimate and have not been tampered with.