An unprecedented rash of credit card fraud in one corner of the Northwest is forcing banks to put limits on card purchases – just in time for the busiest shopping season of the year.
Customers from the eastern Washington/north Idaho region may find legitimate purchases denied as part of an effort to contain the fraud.
Thieves apparently stole credit and debit data from cards swiped at a regional chain of grocery stores. The company URM owns Rosauers, Super 1 Foods and Yoke's Fresh Market – which, in the Inland Northwest, have a customer base that includes pretty much everyone.
Banks and credit unions, who in most cases have to absorb the fraudulent charges, are going on high alert. Some are limiting the number of transactions a customer can make in a day, blocking purchases made without a pin at certain Big Box stores, and lowering the dollar amount flagged for potential fraud.
Chrissy Yarnell is a debit card specialist at Spokane-based Inland Northwest Bank, which has lost more than $30,000 to the fraud spree.
She says, “We've told all of our customers to use their pin whenever possible. That will help avoid them getting denied. That's not 100 percent guaranteed. If you're going to make a really large purchase, you might want to call your institution ahead of time and let them know.”
Yarnell's husband was among the fraud victims. She says someone used his card on $30 or so worth of sushi in Arizona. Other credit cards numbers popped up on the East Coast and in China and India. The Secret Service is investigating.
The grocery store chain says it’s now blocked thieves from getting any more card numbers. URM has stores in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana.