Check, credit card fraud on the rise in SLO, police say - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Check, credit card fraud on the rise in SLO, police say

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San Luis Obispo police display fraudulent credit and debit cards. (KSBY photo) San Luis Obispo police display fraudulent credit and debit cards. (KSBY photo)

The San Luis Obispo Police Department is reporting a noticeable increase in organized check and credit card fraud. 
Detectives say thieves are breaking into mailboxes, looking for checks you've written and using common software to re-print them and make them look identical to your original checks.

Detectives say the easiest way to become a victim of identity theft is to use checks.

"These are checks stolen right out of the mailbox. Right here -- routing number, account number, check number, this is everything a thief would need," said Det. Eric Vitale, San Luis Obispo Police Department.

Police say the spike in mail theft is statewide. It doesn't matter where you live, every county is seeing an increase.

"I don't want to be an alarmist but I'm going to be accurate. It's pandemic. I haven't seen it like this. Even when it was 15 years ago, it isn't like it is now," said Det. Vitale.
Police are offering the following tips so you don't become a victim of mail fraud:

  • Stop using checks
  • Use an online banking system for bill pay

If you are still going to write checks:

  • Check your mail daily
  • Drop checks off inside the post office before collection pick-up time

Detective Vitale also says if you get a statement in the mail saying you've been denied a credit card that you don't remember applying for, call police immediately.

Police say local businesses are increasingly becoming victims of debit and credit card fraud. In these cases, suspects emboss the front of the card with fraudulent information.

"If somebody comes in to make a purchase and they swipe the card and it's not reading, do not accept the card," said Det. Vitale.

Police say under no circumstances should you manually enter a card number, and many local businesses have put new policies in place because they are the ones that take the fall.

"It's a loss to us, the retailers, and it's sad," said the store manager at Beverly's in downtown San Luis Obispo.

Detective Vitale also advises consumers to, "Stop using your debit cards. That's your money they are stealing. Get a credit card, one particular that gives bonus points and use it for every transaction that you are not going to use cash."

State and federal laws protect consumers. If your credit card is compromised, you have 30 days to discover the fraud and report it, and your bank has 30 days to fix it.

Police say don't take checks if you're a small business that can not afford the loss. 

"The checks being passed by suspects are genuine and not washed. They are printed with stolen information and in some cases, they are printed on business checks. Your best bet is to scrutinize the identification being presented. Look at the photograph and compare it to the person presenting the check. If you're not comfortable accepting check, decline it," said San Luis Obispo Police. 

If your business is not equipped with a chip reader, police say you are taking all of the risks when accepting credit cards. 

Police also say suspects know that if they keep the value of a check under $950.00, it is only a misdemeanor violation.

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