"His card was used at Publix supermarkets in Boynton Beach, Florida-area 14 times in one day," Richmond Police Chief Alan Buck said.
In the last 48 hours, Chief Buck has been flooded with complaints about credit and debit card fraud. Vermont victims report their accounts are being wiped out by someone making illegal purchases in Florida, Texas, London and Spain.
"We think that there's 350 victims just in this area," Buck said.
Police in Williston say they've been investigating a similar scenario since the beginning of the year. In May, authorities discovered a link in the cases: Every victim whose data had been compromised shopped at Natural Provisions Market in Williston.
"At this point we're 100 percent sure that it was this particular store," Williston Police Det. Sgt. Bart Chamberlain said.
Investigators say anyone who used their credit or debit card there before July 2 may be a victim. Customers should check their bank statements for phony charges and report the fraud immediately. Authorities estimate the thieves swiped at least $100,000 from hundreds of people in Chittenden County so far. They expect the damages to multiply as this investigation continues.
"We have no reason to believe that anyone at Natural Provisions was involved in this. They've been extremely helpful and cooperative since this started," Chamberlain said.
Police say Natural Provisions was an easy target for these hackers because of the way their credit card processors were setup. That's because their cash registers were connected to the internet; a mistake police say is really risky for a business and makes catching the crook complicated.
"It's one person or one group who develops the software and who steals all this data. They then resell it as quickly as they can in various internet chat rooms and other sources along the internet to as many people as they can," Chamberlain explained.
The president of Natural Provisions, Terry Powers, told WCAX News it does not store customer's credit card information and these criminals caught his company off guard.
"There are people out there who thrive on the ability to take advantage of us. It's really, really difficult to stay ahead of the technology that these criminals have and they best we can do it rely on the experts. We would do whatever we needed to in order to correct this situation and we did. We take our relationship with the community very seriously and regret any inconvenience that this situation may have caused," Powers said.
Natural Provisions has since replaced the hard drives on its computers, overhauled its security systems and disconnected the credit card readers from the internet. Police believe the problem has been fixed and it's safe to shop at the store.
Again, police say they do not suspect that anyone at Natural Provisions was directly involved in the fraud. The Secret Service, the FBI and the attorney general's office are now working the case because local authorities do not have the resources to track down the crooks who are using the stolen data out-of-state.
Police say keeping a close eye on your bank statements is your best defense. Sometimes the banks catch questionable withdrawals and they'll shutdown the account. But if you are hacked, report the fraud immediately. Typically if it's a clear cut case of fraud customers shouldn't be on the hook for the money. Authorities say banks and credit unions handles incidents like this on a case-by-case basis.
Friday, March 7 2014 7:28 PM EST2014-03-08 00:28:44 GMT
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