Several credit, debit card information thefts on campus call for reporting of similar incidents

Sarah White

Information stolen from some students’ credit and debit cards has been used at the same online stores, leading to privacy and safety concerns on campus. Law enforcement officials urge students to report card information theft.

Six UT students interviewed by The Daily Texan reported having their credit card information stolen in the past two weeks. Two victims said their cards were used to buy items from Sephora, while others reported charges from Bloomingdales and Fandango. The amounts of the reported fraudulent charges ranged from $200 to $600. All of the victims interviewed by The Daily Texan were able to have the fraudulent charges dismissed, however none of them had filed police reports with UTPD or the Austin Police Department as of Monday.

Supply chain management junior Cheyenne McClaren said she thinks her information might have been stolen when she purchased a restaurant gift card from a door-to-door salesperson.

“I swiped my card through the reading device that was attached to a [mobile cell] phone,” McClaren said. “I really should not have done it, because I know those devices are not secure.”

She said she has not yet reported the incident to the police, but she is planning to file a report as soon as possible. McClaran said having her information stolen led her to monitor her online interactions more carefully.

“After I got the charges taken off my card I made a point to change all of my passwords,” McClaren said. “I also created a second bank account as a security measure where I kept less of my savings. I use it when I make purchases that I think are less secure.”

UTPD officer Darrell Halstead said he has not seen an increase in reported fraudulent credit and debit card activity or information theft, but this could be explained by the fact that students are often reluctant to report these incidents.

“A lot of times people think there is nothing that the police can do about [credit and debit card information thefts] so they do not report these incidents,” Halstead said. “In not reporting crime, they prove themselves right because there is absolutely nothing we can do about a crime if we do not know about it.”

He said the first step in finding the perpetrators who are stealing credit card information is for victims to report the incident with UTPD or the APD.

“What I would like to see is people getting involved in reporting crimes that happen on this campus,” Halstead said.

Once officers know that a student’s credit card information has been stolen, they can begin to work with the credit card company to verify that a crime has been committed, Halstead said. Officers can then investigate the locations where the credit and debit card numbers have been used illegally.

According to APD’s incident report database there were three reported incidences of “credit card abuse by fraud” for each of the past three weeks in the City of Austin. Cpl. Anthony Hipolito with APD said incidences of credit and debit card theft are classified with all other types of theft by the police department. Therefore, he said it would be difficult for APD representatives to know if the number of thefts has been increasing in recent weeks.

Printed on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 as: Credit card theft burdens UT students