A spate of thefts involving credit card fraud in the Flathead Valley is putting customers and banks on alert, and it’s likely that local and online merchants are responsible for stealing the information.
“There is always some level of fraud present in our daily work, but this is a time when we are experiencing a higher volume of fraud,” Glacier Bank President Bob Nystuen said.
Customers’ information is not being stolen from the banks, Nystuen said, but is likely being gleaned from cards during normal shopping transactions, either online or in person.
“Credit card numbers are being stolen at merchants. There are devices that actually skim the information from your credit card, unbeknownst to the owner of the store,” he said. “Once they skim that information, they sell it to major fraudsters around the country and the fraudsters replicate the cards.”
The bank often recognizes fraudulent transactions because of a sudden change in spending patterns and alerts the customer. Local law enforcement has not become involved in an investigation.
In Whitefish, where dozens of customers at numerous banks have either reported fraudulent credit and debit card activity or have been alerted by their bank, Police Chief Bill Dial said there has not been an uptick in reported fraud.
That’s probably because customers are resolving the problem with the banks themselves, Nystuen said.
“The customers best ally is the bank,” Nystuen said. “We do our very best to keep information at the bank secure, but credit card information and debit card information is vulnerable. The customer has to really monitor their account activity. Once the money is gone, the hands of law enforcement are tied.”
Nystuen said he’s personally been the victim of credit card fraud and understands the frustration.
“All of a sudden I get charged at a major box store on the east coast that I have never visited,” he said. “Someone will go buy a big screen television, return it and keep the money. They’ll keep doing that until the customer or bank realizes there is fraudulent activity.”
Although the bank has multiple layers of security monitoring, Nystuen said customers should remain vigilant because the bank can’t always catch everything.
“The fraudster only has to be right one time to get the card to work. We have to be right all of the time,” he said.
He said monitoring card activity and knowing whom you’re doing business with are two important steps customers can take to avoid credit card fraud or catch fraudulent activity early.
“The key message is your money is safe in your bank. But if there is a fraudulent transaction you have to contact the bank as soon as possible,” he said.
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