West Seattle Crime Watch: Check your cards; ‘beater’ car theft

Two West Seattle Crime Watch reports this afternoon. First one is from JR:

We were alerted today, by VISA, of unauthorized charges on our credit card and the card was shut down. I am wondering if others in West Seattle had the same thing happen to them in the last few days? If so I would love to compare purchases and payment locations directly with respondents in order to help the police in their their investigation. I will not specify the business specifically, but we used this card at the following West Seattle locations:

Two different fruit and vegetable stands
One restaurant at the Junction
The above charges were made on Friday.

On Saturday we bought coffee at a coffee shop in West Seattle and then went to Queen Anne lower hill where:
*We paid by card for parking at a parking lot west of Seattle Center
*We purchased stage theater tickets from a theater
*We bought sports merchandise at Seattle Center.

The fraudulent charges started after 4 PM Saturday. Don’t know if they occurred in West Seattle or Queen Anne.

I do not want to name any specific businesses, but if you have had your card number stolen and incurred fraudulent charges after using your credit card at any of the types of places meeting these descriptions, contact police and Visa Fraud division, 1-800-383-0618.

We also received a recent report of a credit-card number apparently stolen after being used at an area gas station; the person who e-mailed suspected a card skimmer, but we have not yet seen a police report verifying that. It all is a good reminder to check your credit-card account online as often as feasible – daily if you can – to catch something like this.

Meantime, we also received a car-theft report from Lee (39th and Hanford), who is puzzled:

Just noticed my car was stolen overnight. White ’88 Acura Legend. Real beater. Why anyone would steal the worst car on the block (and probably the entire neighborhood) is beyond me, but there you go. Irony is that I recently bought a newer, much nicer truck that was parked right behind it. And I’d already donated the Acura to charity and was just waiting for them to come pick it up.

50 Replies to "West Seattle Crime Watch: Check your cards; 'beater' car theft"

  • newnative October 10, 2010 (3:33 pm)

    the credit card theft victim didn’t mention ATM machines but the privately owned ones are notorious for allowing skimming. I also know a lot of BoA customers that have had theft after using their own ATMs.

  • JB October 10, 2010 (4:50 pm)

    I caught a vendor red handed @ Seattle Center. Took my girlfriends card over to another vendor stating he needed to use his CC processor. He froze up when I confronted him I should have reported it. This happened in August

  • Kat October 10, 2010 (5:56 pm)

    After hearing this…..cash is king!!!

  • Metal Jesus October 10, 2010 (6:10 pm)

    My BoA debit card was duplicated recently, and I think it was while using their own ATMs in Burien. It was one of those stand-alone island you drive up to.

  • defenestrator October 10, 2010 (6:41 pm)

    BoA recently sent my wife and I two new debit cards in the mail with new numbers. We didn’t ask for them, so I called to ask what it was about. They told me this problem has been pretty widespread, so even though we haven’t had any problems with our account they sent us new cards anyway just to be safe.

    I didn’t get specifics about where and how the problems started.

  • coffee October 10, 2010 (6:54 pm)

    You could not pay me to bank with BoA….

  • JanS October 10, 2010 (6:55 pm)

    just this afternoon a friend was telling me that B of A has replaced her debit card for a SECOND time this year….so..heads up…

  • Fellow Citizen October 10, 2010 (7:16 pm)

    BoA yikes! I use mine all the time! So far no problem (I hope!) Maybe I better think twice about using it!!!

  • Really? October 10, 2010 (7:32 pm)

    BOA has never done wrong by me. I hear about people saying BOA this and that . . . maybe they only tailor to large or corporate/business accounts. I don’t know. My business accounts are with them and so are my personal. I cannot stress how much they’ve helped us!

  • Catherine October 10, 2010 (7:37 pm)

    My husband’s BofA card number was skimmed from a gas station in WS on either Wednesday or Thursday. They made six back-to-back attempts at buying gas at the same station my husband was pumping at but the name they were using didn’t match the name on my husband’s card, so the bank froze his card. He was alerted by BofA and was sent a new card. Luckily, the skimmers weren’t able to make any purchases. How frustrating.

  • kath October 10, 2010 (8:11 pm)

    think it’s the missing Acura parked (wildly) in front of 4437 38th avenue SW, between Oregon & Genesee. police have been notified.

    • WSB October 10, 2010 (9:24 pm)

      Kath! I think I just heard that call on the scanner. Good eye. I hope it is in OK condition enough for Lee to still donate it …

  • ? October 10, 2010 (8:18 pm)

    Which gas station? would be good to know!

  • GenHillOne October 10, 2010 (8:36 pm)

    The card could have been skimmed anytime in the last few months and it may be difficult to identify where. “Smart” skimmers collect the numbers and save them for a holiday weekend – banks are closed Monday – because it gives them an extra day that the transactions might go unnoticed. My skimmed Wells Fargo card was used last Labor Day weekend but the fraud department contacted me almost immediately. I was out of town and they realized that I couldn’t be making purchases in two cities simultaneously with one card. Still had some money tied up for a week or so, but it could have been much worse!

  • eck October 10, 2010 (9:52 pm)

    my boa debit card was declined on Sunday and when I called to reorder a card, thinking it was just a bad magnetic strip, I was told that it was part of a mass compromise and that it originated at Grocery Outlet in Burien, where I had shopped two weeks ago. I’m sure it could happen anywhere but I’ll be watching my checking account more closely.

  • Cheryl October 10, 2010 (10:24 pm)

    Checking my BofA accounts now. I too had a problem w/ my debit card yesterday! We were down in Tacoma for the Pt. Defiance Zoo and stopped at a BofA branch so I could get money out of the ATM. It said my card was unauthorized and declined my request for cash. So, I went INTO the bank to get money. The teller wasn’t very helpful, told me to call Customer Service about the ATM card. But he also still gave me cash.
    Now I’m more than a little worried.

  • Michelle October 10, 2010 (10:42 pm)

    Kath- How awesome that you noticed the car!!! Kudos to you- you are a great West Seattle neighbor.

  • Tom October 10, 2010 (11:07 pm)


  • tab October 11, 2010 (3:08 am)

    I was sent a similar notification in September from Bank of America, along with a new card and slightly changed number. BofA Customer Service told me that the card was compromised on September 15th at a local merchant. The only place I used that card on 9/15 was a coffee place in the Junction. Sorry to say, it was Hotwire Online Coffeehouse. In fairness, they reported the compromise to their system right away and no actual unauthorized charges were made. I’m not saying it’s only them having problems either, just that maybe someone is trying to do this specifically within the Junction area?

  • Laura October 11, 2010 (4:14 am)

    I just had my B of A credit card suddenly replaced a few days ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a huge breach of security and we just haven’t heard about it. A friend and 3 of her friends had their B of A cards replaced too. Not sure if it was debit or credit though.

  • Magpie October 11, 2010 (6:09 am)

    Credit card skimming can happen almost anywhere at any time. Recently in the area, there have been skimmers on a couple of the bank doors where you have to use your card to get in to use the atm, there have been some skimmers at a couple of gas stations that I know of (not in the West Seattle area, but in Bellevue). The skimmers are often on for just a few days or a few hours.

    There have been a couple of instances at fast food places, too. Generally, if the fraud charges on your card are local, then it probably happened locally (ie, your card shows up at a gas station without you or at an ATM locally). If the fraud happens in another city (like somewhere in Florida or California or internationally), you were probably the victim of a larger skim or card compromise. Behind the scenes, Visa, Mastercard, etc have all kinds of neural networks in place to limit these when they happen, but there is so much criminal activity and with this kind of fraud, rarely does anyone get prosecuted, let alone caught. Also, your bank may not know where the point of compromise is as Visa doesn’t let them know either.

    If the fraud is local, the police are often able to pinpoint the point of compromise. They don’t make it public, for some reason, though local financial institutions may be notified.

    When Visa, Mastercard, etc notifies a bank, they include all of the card numbers that are on a known compromise and then, based on how much info that has been obtained (pin, full mag stripe, etc) the financial institution makes the decision whether to close the card and reissue based on their risk. In the event the bank calls you to verify a charge and the charge isn’t yours, they will close the card and reissue right away.

    I think we should be careful naming a business because of a bad experience and assuming that the skim or compromise happened locally. That certainly doesn’t mean that they are skimming your card. The skim could have happened months ago and the card is just now being used…

    I’m surprised that a bank would state the place of compromise when a customer called,especially if there was just speculation, (which it looks like the original poster is speculating that the compromise happened locally).The business might not know anything about the card skimmer and could be a victim of a dishonest employee, too.

  • eck October 11, 2010 (6:30 am)

    I agree with Magpie–it can happen anywhere, anytime. It was the first time to happen to me, which is why I hounded the boa customer service person about what a mass compromise meant, to which she told me where it originated because they were the ones to report it. That was just what I was told. It hasn’t stopped me from shopping there, though. I love good deals.

  • Krystal October 11, 2010 (6:50 am)

    I thought someone had duplicated either my or my husband’s card, so I closed the cards immediately. This was a few weeks back. Turns out, the charge I thought was fraudulent was actually somewhere I had gone in APRIL, but it had just cleared my account, and it was a local restaurant in University Village. I was glad that I had been proactive and safe closing my card (even though it was a pain until the new ones came in the mail). BECU said that duplicating actual cards has been a problem as well, the perps will basically steal a number and somehow make a fake card with that number on it. Isn’t that nuts?

  • homesweethome October 11, 2010 (6:51 am)

    We have been receiving new BOA credit cards, yearly, for the past 5 years…that belong to a dead fellow. Each time we go to the branch on Admiral Way to report it, they tell us to call customer service, we do, nothing happens. More credit cards arrive. I think they take fraud pretty lightly, and now we simply destroy the cards on behalf of the dead fellow.

  • warren s October 11, 2010 (7:21 am)

    Had my number stolen as well, they can tell alot by where it was used. Mine was for xbox live credits etc and gaming equip. What were the false charges ?

  • LeeT October 11, 2010 (7:56 am)

    Thanks, Kath and WSB! That was indeed my car. Going to check it out this morning.

  • WSB October 11, 2010 (8:11 am)

    Magpie, thanks for clearly knowledgeable background. We actually have deleted a few comments in the thread regarding specific businesses, as they did violate our rules regarding such speculation (whether a person or business), as well as one that was entirely off the topic – TR

  • LeeT October 11, 2010 (9:56 am)

    Well, if I thought it was a beater before, I had no idea had bad it could get. ;^>
    Totally trashed interior, power window was stuck halfway down so the seats are all soaked. Ignition broken in such a way that any key (or screwdriver) will start it.
    Hope the vehicle-donation place will still take it…
    Thanks again, Kath and WSB.

  • RJB October 11, 2010 (10:54 am)

    Sorry WSB…my bad…wasn’t aware of the rules.

  • Cheryl October 11, 2010 (10:54 am)

    Just got off the phone with BofA Customer Service; been informed that there WAS a merchant compromise here in West Seattle but they won’t tell me exactly which merchant, or when the compromise happened; only that a new card was issued on Sept 9th (which I never received by the way). So my Debit/ATM card was blocked as a result, which is why I was unable to use it over the weekend at a BofA ATM in Tacoma, but still make a withdrawal from inside the branch.
    So, then I went through my statement on-line of purchases I made before Sept 9th, and there were SEVERAL at Junction businesses (not Hot Wire though), and all of them reputable & long time local businesses too!
    The customer service representative told me that when a purchase is made at a “Compromised Business” that they already know about, they automatically flag, and then block the card. It just took some time for the block to register with me, since I use that particular ATM card very infrequently.
    So…. West Seattle BofA customers, I suggest you call Customer Service TODAY. Or be aware at least, that your card may in fact get blocked if you’re making purchases at businesses in the Junction.
    And no, I don’t blame the local businesses btw. This could have happened anywhere. Anytime.
    To @LeeT, I’m glad you got your vehicle back, though I’m sorry it was trashed. I’m sure the donation place will still take it. Good luck!

  • Shari October 11, 2010 (11:08 am)

    We got new BOA cards last week and I thought it was weird because we got new cards about 4 months ago. But got new cards on another account last month so figured as usual BOA just screwed up again. It would have been nice for BOA to include a letter why we were getting new cards. Thanks for the heads up and I will keep an closer eye on our accounts.

  • clem October 11, 2010 (11:36 am)

    My Chase debit number was stolen last week. I discovered fraudulent charges to my account for Pamir Airways and Afriqiyah Airways. I can’t pinpoint where or how this happened but I did find some of my mail the weekend prior on the sidewalk. I live on 26th ave in North Delridge. All my shopping was in West Seattle before that. I’m really glad I had email alerts set up for my account or I would have not caught it so quickly.

  • cabanamom October 11, 2010 (1:05 pm)

    This BoA problem may be more wide spread:( My husband’s business debit card was declined a few weeks ago. (he rarely uses it for debit purchases). When he called BoA, they said his card was compromised on 9.16.10 and they had sent us a letter and reissued card. We never received card and were paniced. Meanwhile, we’ve had lots of “autopays” bounce.
    Turns out, BoA did send us a new card (which I found in a stack of paperwork at home–had I known to expect it, I would have been looking for it) and there was only a little blurb about card being used for a fraudulant charge. Which never showed up in our on-line detail. How about a phone call? Crazy stuff!

  • nancy jones October 11, 2010 (1:12 pm)

    this happened to me and they took 800.00 out of my checking account paying phone and tv bills…the only two places I handed over my card was eating places in west seattle..the bank still has not told me who but the bank did refund the money

  • CurlyQ October 11, 2010 (1:37 pm)

    It makes me wonder if B of A got behind on monitoring this criminal activity because they’re so overwhelmed with foreclosures (which they halted the other day, BTW). Obviously two different departments, but there have been so many lay-offs and then getting hit with the foreclosure crisis all at once–makes me wonder if they’re grossly understaffed at their corporate HQ (not our local branch, where we typically get pretty attentive service).
    I also think it would be a good idea for our Junction Business Assn. to talk about this issue at their next meeting–I’m sure all the good folks with small businesses will want to discuss some kind of action to stay ahead of this, if for no other reason than quelling the idea that it’s somehow not safe to shop with a credit or debit card in the Junction.

    • WSB October 11, 2010 (1:44 pm)

      Curly, I have an inquiry out to B of A’s media liaison for fraud etc. I would hope nobody is taking away the “idea” you mention – the businesses, again, are most likely to have this happening without their knowledge, and it could happen to anyone anywhere. The whole point of this isn’t to be paranoid or concerned about any particular place but to keep an eye on your credit/bank/accounts, which all of us should be doing no matter where we are, no matter who we bank with. If I do succeed in getting any info from B of A, I will publish it as a separate followup too … TR

  • EmmyJane October 11, 2010 (2:46 pm)

    BofA, new card 3 days ago, same deal. They guy on the phone wouldn’t tell me where my card was compromised.

  • tab October 11, 2010 (2:46 pm)

    The Bank of America employee did say specifically when the compromise happened and that it was local. I even asked him whether it could have happened the day before, like Sept 14th, and he said that was highly unlikely. The compromise happened on Sept. 15 and was reported to the banks the same day. While I was talking to him I looked at my banking statement to see where I used that car that day and, obviously, from there I could see where I used the card that day. I never said that he personally told me the name of the business. I also never said that I blamed the business personally and even gave them credit for reporting it right away.

  • CurlyQ October 11, 2010 (3:01 pm)

    WSB, the last thing I want to do is suggest bad ideas. Sorry if I left that impression. Thanks for looking into all of this for the rest of us (and thanks to JR for bringing to everyone’s attention).

  • Born To Be Mild October 11, 2010 (3:51 pm)

    It’s been a couple of years since I last had a BoA card. I had a miserable experience with them and feel for each of you that still do business with them.

  • neko October 11, 2010 (5:55 pm)

    Hmmm, I’m wondering if everyone in WS (or even broader) got new cards just as a precaution of some sort?

    I have two different BOA accounts. One card/account that I use a lot and one that I haven’t used in a year. I got new cards for both in the last week or so.

  • S October 11, 2010 (7:58 pm)

    My year started out on a bad foot when my little red Dodge Neon was stolen on New Years day.. It was recovered on my birthday Jan 6th.. that was great!!! Then B of A froze my account. When I called to find out WHY they said that my account had been “Compromised through a 3rd party”.. they said someone tried to make a large purchase WAY out of my spending habits, and that threw up a red flag to them. They issued me a new card and they and I have been watching my account… a week later same thing happened to a lady I work with. They spent $195 at American Eagle.. Glad I am always broke…lol. A month after this happened, I got an email from PayPal telling me that the card I was trying to use was no longer valid and to update my card information.. Hmmmm, I wasn’t trying to purchase anything through PayPal… How would they know my card was invalid?? Because someone was trying to use it again!!…I found a number for them.. called and talked to a REAL person and told them It was NOT ME trying to make the purchase.. and I was very much aware that the card information there was no longer valid and I would no longer be using their service for anything. Watch your PayPal accounts… skimmers, etc.. Cash IS King!!

    @Lee, glad to hear you got your car back, even if it was scheduled to be donated. People need to keep their hands off other peoples STUFF!!!

  • Blackwatch October 11, 2010 (9:20 pm)

    This happened to us too. They just sent my wife’s card without informing us as to why and I was notified and had my cards replaced. They took out $9.00 which the bank replaced. It was an exploratory charge to see if the number was good.
    Haven’t the faintest idea where they got it though…

    Good thing there is never any money in our accounts………….

  • K.H. October 11, 2010 (11:58 pm)

    as a manager of an e-commerce fraud department with almost 10 years in credit card fraud, I just have to say, compromises can happen anywhere. -And typically, they will happen 2-3 months before your card is used fraudulently. I have worked for Visa directly, and with the FBI IC3 and just have to say that although we all have the desire to find justice, it is nearly impossible to be a slueth and catch the culprit. It could be anything from a card skimmer to a waitress at a restaurant with a camera phone, to a compromised website. The best thing to do is to cancel your cards, dispute the fraudulent charges, and let it go. I have seen too many people waste too much time trying to solve unsolvable mysteries. And as a member of the West Seattle community, I would hate to have local businesses be the victims of speculation. If you do want to try to report it or learn more, I highly reccommend http://www.ic3.gov; I work with them almost daily, and they have great resources regarding stolen cards and identity theft.

  • K.H. October 12, 2010 (12:03 am)

    I also wanted to add that the term “Compromised business” does not mean that the business did anything wrong. Most likely if a breach did occur, it happened at their processing bank, and had nothing to do with the business itself. -Most of the time that is the only way an issuing bank (credit card company) is even alerted of a point of compromise. -If it was at a business level, it would be their responsibility to issue refunds on their end, or accept all liability of fraud related chargebacks. -In merchant level compromises, most of the time cardholders report the fraud, not credit card companies. I hope this info helps clarify any confusion!

  • SLC October 12, 2010 (1:03 pm)

    POS systems in Canada and Europe are now using the “chip and pin” system, where the card reader is brought to your table, you put in your PIN, and the receipt is printed. Your card NEVER leaves your sight. This is much safer and more secure for everyone involved. My understanding is that VISA and MC are reluctant to implement this system here in the US because of the cost to replace all their POS systems, and the cost of the card is also higher. To me, it seems that fraud might be costing them more.

  • Norman October 12, 2010 (6:30 pm)

    Is there any one out there that can explain to me what to look for as far as a physical skimming device and can one be used wirelessly I mean could they be in car recording your transactions I don’t really under stand how its done other than some one seeing your number and pin

  • DK October 13, 2010 (8:22 pm)

    @Norman, here’s a recent article from the WSJ that specifically talks about ATM skimming & might be helpful: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704442404575542652417958106.html?mod=WSJ_newsreel_personalFinance

  • Cheryl Miller October 15, 2010 (12:19 pm)

    About a month ago I received notice that my credit card was being used in the UK. We shut down the card so only 3 charges were attempted. I use my card frequently so couldn’t speculate where the fraud might have originated.

  • Norman October 16, 2010 (2:30 pm)

    Dk thanks for the info it was very helpful

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