Number of Victims Jumps as Secret Service Joins Debit Theft Case

Nearly 200 cases of dwindling bank accounts reported to authorities in Wheeling, Buffalo Grove and Harwood Heights

Monday, Sep 27, 2010  |  Updated 4:57 PM CDT
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Police are investigating numerous incidents of unauthorized use of ATM cards.

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The United States Secret Service has joined the investigation of a new credit card scam that's gaining victims in Chicago's suburbs.

Nearly 200 cases of dwindling bank accounts have now been reported to authorities in Wheeling, Buffalo Grove and Harwood Heights.

School bus driver Lisa Vinarsky discovered Wednesday that she was one of the victims.  Every cent in her account -- hundreds of dollars -- was gone.

"It's horrible because [the thieves] really don't realize what they do," she said.  "It's not just the matter of taking your money out.  There could be a domino effect.  When you've paid bills and all of a sudden those are returning and they're saying, 'You're late on a bill' and it had to be paid, you know, something bad can happen with that."

Victims said Thursday they've been told the crime is connected to their shopping at a discount grocery store chain on Dundee Road.

The thieves have made debit cards with the information either gleaned from skimming devices that swipes the customer's card card information as they make a purchase or by hacking into the store's network.  Police aren't yet sure.

But what they do know is that a majority of the illegal transactions have been made in California.  They're usually in the amount of $503; the maximum many ATMs will disperse plus a $3 surcharge.

Vinarsky said her bank is reimbursing her but that could take days to complete.

NYTimes.com: How to Spot an ATM Skimmer

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