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Officers plan strategy to attack credit card fraud

By Bob Buckel | Published Wednesday, September 11, 2013

You could call it a 21st-century posse.

Wise County Sheriff David Walker convened a meeting Tuesday at the Decatur Civic Center that included his investigators, Texas Rangers, police from Decatur and Bridgeport, investigators from the Secret Service office in Dallas, District Attorney Greg Lowery and his investigator, and representatives of most of the banks in Wise County.

The goal? Share information and start tracking down the source of the credit card fraud that surfaced last week in the bank accounts of hundreds of Wise County residents.

“Our goal was to get everyone on the same page,” Walker said Tuesday afternoon. “The central thread is still Taco Casa.”

Apparently, hackers got into the restaurant’s point-of-sale computers on-line and recorded credit and debit card numbers, and were selling them on the internet. Charges began showing up as far away as Jamaica, Las Vegas and California, and as close as Houston.

At least now the hackers won’t be the only ones communicating.

“We’re going to share information, where we stand, what my troops are going to do,” Walker said. “I’ve got two investigators and a captain on it, and they’re teaming up with the Secret Service this afternoon. We’ll share what we find with the Decatur and Bridgeport PDs.”

The goal, he said, is to find someone who has used a card, go after them and try to track down where they got the credit card numbers. The banks’ security systems are key players.

“We had quite a few banks there [Tuesday],” Walker said. “Some of them have contacted the merchants and they have video. We’ll follow up with subpoenas for the video.

“If we can ever get that person who used the card, we’ll ask them where they got that card.”

Walker said he almost wished someone would use a fraudulent card in Decatur or some other store in the county – but he’s willing to go some distance to follow up.

“If there’s any lead that’s within a reasonable distance – we’re not going to go to Jamaica or Las Vegas, but if something surfaces in the Houston or Humble area – where we’ve contacted them, the banks have contacted them, we’ll try to get surveillance video and see if we can track down the people who used the cards there,” he said.

He said the number of “compromised” cards looks to be around 900 to 1,000 at this point. That means the cards were considered at risk of being used, and were listed as hot and reissued with a different number by the bank.

“One bank had 300-something and another had 500-something,” Walker said. “The actual number of fraud cases filed is 35 to 40 right now, but we expect both of those numbers to grow.”

He said isolating the time frame during which the numbers were taken is not as easy as it would seem.

“The Secret Service guys said this is a virus the hackers will put into the software, and often they will leave it there for months,” Walker explained. “It will sit there, and every time someone uses a card it will record that data. Then they start using it.”

And although Taco Casa seems to have been the entry point, there’s no suggestion that anyone there did anything wrong. Both the theft and the sale of numbers apparently occurred over the internet.

Walker urged all bank customers in the area to check their accounts for unusual activity, and alert their banks as quickly as possible.

“The number of compromised cards is still likely to grow,” he said. “Hopefully it won’t grow on the fraud side, but we need to be prepared if it does.”

He encouraged people to change their passwords on a routine basis and keep a close eye on charges – not just at this time, but from now on.

The Sheriff’s Department will be working to set up a forum to help educate businesses about the methods hackers use to steal their data.

“We’re going to be talking to the Chambers of Commerce pretty soon, looking at a merchants and bankers discussion-type meeting,” he said. “We just want to get everybody together and discuss options, what they can do to preserve their security so they’re not hacked into – passwords, firewalls, server protection. The Secret Service has agreed to send a team to that meeting.”

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