At least 15 reports of credit and debit card fraud have been filed at the sheriff’s Ramona station in the past week and more are expected as word is spreading that recent victims in Ramona are not alone.
Melissa Mailander of Ramona said at least 25 people at a Ramona Pony Baseball game said they had received notification that their credit or debit card numbers had been stolen.
Residents have reported receiving calls from their banks questioning purchases in states throughout the United States and even in other countries.
Mailander’s bank told her that someone had tried to use her debit card for $110 at a restaurant in Maryland, $250 at a Walmart in Florida, and another $110 for a grocery store in Florida.
“Luckily my credit card caught them all and declined it,” she said, adding that there doesn’t appear to be a specific bank card targeted.
Mailander said she believes as many as 100 people in Ramona have been affected.
Tracy Taft, co-owner of Kitchen Barn with husband Matt, received a call that someone tried to use her debit card number for France Telecom, and another transaction was attempted in North Carolina. Taft was hit twice — her personal debit card and her business debit card were compromised.
“We’re cash-only right now, and I’ll write a check,” said Taft.
Another Ramonan reported charges from Massachusetts and from Michigan on two separate debit card accounts.
Mailander encourages everyone who’s been a victim to file a report with the sheriff’s department.
While some of the victims are looking at the businesses where they used their cards to find common sites, Taft said she believes the card numbers could have been stolen at more than one business.
“It is really positive that victims are reporting the crime to the Sheriff’s Department,” said Barbara Wallace, crime prevention specialist at the Ramona station. “...There are different ways they (identity thieves) could be doing it. We need people to be vigilant about reviewing their bank or credit card accounts.”
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country and its effects are felt worldwide, the sheriff’s department states on the Financial Crimes section of its website, sdsheriff.net/co_financialcrimes.html.
“We all have to be very protective of our financial and personal information in today’s world,” said Wallace. “Every time we use our credit or debit cards, we are sharing our account numbers and other vital information with ‘strangers.’ It almost makes you feel that the only safe method is to use cash, but carrying too much cash could put you at risk, too.”
Wallace shares some tips for protecting your financial life:
•Always report credit or debit card fraud to law enforcement and your financial institution.
•Be vigilant about reviewing your bank/card accounts.
•Protect your PIN numbers and codes on the back of your cards.
•Don’t let your credit/debit card out of your sight. Don’t let someone take it to complete a transaction.
•Always shred documents containing your personal information.
•Never provide personal information over the phone or Internet unless you initiated the contact.
•Beware of using your credit/debit cards on public WiFi sites.
•Check your credit report at least once a year. You can receive one free report from each of the three credit reporting agencies annually.
For more information, Wallace may be contacted at 760-738-2425.
The sheriff’s department investigates cases involving credit card offenses, counterfeit and “bad” checks, embezzlement, false impersonation, fraud, forgery and identity theft.
To report a financial crime, contact the department at 858-565-5200.