Financial Crimes Spike in Recent Weeks

By: Leon County Sheriff’s Office Press Release; Angela Howard Email
By: Leon County Sheriff’s Office Press Release; Angela Howard Email

About 100 people found out over the last couple weeks that someone else had accessed their bank account, taking their money and leaving them stunned.

It's a trend that the Leon County Sheriff's Office is hoping to put a stop to sooner than later, and they believe they can do it, now that they've found out how the information was stolen in the first place.

Over the last few weeks a number of people in Tallahassee have seen their bank account balance plummet thanks to a credit and debit card scheme that attacked a local business and stole their information.

"It didn't occur to me that someone could steal your checking account without having your card," said Danna Holihan.

But that's exactly what happened to Danna Holihan and nearly a hundred others in the Tallahassee area. After being flooded with reports of fraud, the Leon County Sheriff's Office began to investigate and found that the computer system at the restaurant Julie's Place had been hacked and someone, somewhere had full access.

"The information is winding up in the hands of people in the far north, in the Midwest, and the west coast of the country," said Leon County Sheriff's Office Spokesman James McQuaig.

LCSO is not sure how the information is getting to these people, but they believe it is being routed through a middle man, so to speak, and that person is then selling the personal info to others who are using it to make purchases.

"We've been here 33 years and processing credit cards a long time and we've never had a problem like this before," said Dave Wendland, the owner of Julie's Place.

So far, some 100 people have been effected and more than 200,000 dollars has been stolen. But now that they've found the leak, Julie's Place is doing all it can to seal it's system up tight.

"Last week, we had our point of sales system come in and wipe the system clean, change the databases, reload the software, update to the latest security, and so everything is locked down tight, tight, tight," said Wendland.

LCSO believes more victims could be out there, and deputies encourage everyone to monitor their bank activity and report any discrepancies to your bank immediately.

Tallahassee, Florida -- September 2, 2010 -- (Press Release) --

The Leon County Sheriff’s Office has recently seen a major increase in the number of reported credit card compromise cases reported. Other area Sheriff’s Offices and Police Departments have also seen a similar increase. Over 100 new cases of credit card fraud have been reported to LCSO within the last month.

Detectives with the Financial Crimes Unit have been working with banks, victims and other agencies recently and discovered one source of a security breach by examining usage patterns. A local restaurant, Julie’s Place, which is located at 2901 North Monroe Street, was determined to have been compromised and was at least one location where the credit card information was being stolen.

The computer system at Julie’s Place had been accessed from outside the system and credit card information was being re-routed to an unknown suspect over the Internet. This information was then used around the country to purchase goods by suspects familiar with this process. Victims of this scheme have been both local repeat customers and those traveling through the Tallahassee area. The
management at Julie’s Place and the provider of their security software worked with the Sheriff’s Office to find the breach and stop it. Julie’s Place has since installed new measures to prevent this type of
breach from re-occurring. Local banking institutions have responded by issuing new credit cards to any customers who were potentially compromised. This theft has resulted in the loss of at least $200,000
at the current time and the investigation is ongoing.

Restaurant owners can help combat this type of theft by using a good Point of Sale Vendor with PCI compliant hardware and software. Security should be maintained by limiting wireless access to the office computer and using good virus software. Restaurant owners should also ensure that their staff is working with the latest security updates for their computer systems. Customers should also routinely check their statements to confirm all the transactions on their cards are valid and immediately report any discrepancies to their banking institution.

The full press release is attached above.

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