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Central Point woman cautions others to be careful following debit card fraud

One local woman says she's become a victim of debit card fraud. Now she hopes her story will help others think about where they swipe.

Posted: Nov 18, 2019 11:20 PM
Updated: Nov 19, 2019 12:30 PM

CENTRAL POINT, Ore. -- A local woman and business owner said she's become a victim of debit card fraud. She says thieves were able to steal more than $1,000 using her debit card information to buy things across the country. Now she hopes her story will help others.

The Lee Family runs Northwest Specialty Fab in Central Point. Office Manager Shannon Lee said the experience with her debit card has made her feel violated.

"Like most people we work hard for what we have and make an honest living," Lee added.

The last time the card had an authorized charge was when Lee's daughter, Taylor, filled her gas tank after running errands a week ago. The next morning, Lee got a text from Wells Fargo letting her know some recent charges to the account didn't seem right.

Someone had used the account to spend $1,100 at a sports academy in a Texas town, another $70 at a Pizza Hut in a town in Florida, and taken a trip to a sushi restaurant in Miami, Florida.

Jason Cole owns the gas station that Lee's daughter visited before she saw the fraudulent charges on her account. While thieves sometimes use "skimmers" to steal debit card information at gas pumps in the U.S., Cole says these tactics are all but impossible at his stations in Oregon. The newer pumps he uses have yet to be successfully skimmed, Cole says, and skimming in general is not often used in Oregon where gas station attendants are always on hand.

Corporate investigators who Cole works with on a regular basis have identified a list of "high risk" point-of-sale locations across the country where compromised cards can be used. None of them are in Oregon.

However, there are plenty of places where your financial information may be vulnerable — particularly when using a debit card.

Consumer financial services company Bankrate listed the four places everyone should be on high alert when using their debit cards. The first was outside ATMs, because thieves can easily capture bank card information by running it through a skimming machine put over the card reader. The company recommended using an ATM inside instead.

Gas stations were next on the list since they can be less secure. Cash or credit cards are recommended for use at the gas pump. Online purchases are also risky because of hackers. Restaurants and bars made the list since a customer may not see where it is swiped.

Most of the money stolen from Lee has since been returned to the account, but Lee doesn't think she's the only victim. 

Lee said this whole experience is making her think twice about where she uses her debit cards from now on and thinks everyone should as well.

"I need to be really proactive. Maybe I need to use a different form of payment," Lee said.

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