Monday, November 24, 2008

Diners' Debit Numbers Stolen - - 20 Nov 2008

LONGMONT, Colo. -- Longmont police are trying to figure out who's stealing people's debit card numbers as they are eating out.

The LPD has had more than a dozen victims come forward, all of whom ate at a popular Asian bistro in August and September. Police said it appears to be a case of someone skimming numbers during dining transactions. The thief is apparently going on shopping sprees in Las Vegas and California.

Amy Maestas is one such victim.

"My checking account is $850 overdrawn right now," said Maestas.

She discovered the problem earlier this week while making a quick stop at the ATM.

"I went to use the ATM to pull out $40 to have lunch with my son at his school. The machine told me the transaction was going to cause insufficient funds," said Maestas. "I freaked out. I actually called my husband and asked him if he was planning a getaway to Vegas without telling me."

That's because whoever did it withdrew $1,000 from Maestas' account at an ATM at the Paris Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas. Maestas hasn't visited Las Vegas in 15 years. Her card number was used at a Global Cash advance location.

Longmont police say the link among the 12 cases they have so far are that all of the victims dined at the East Moon Asian Bistro on Main Street.

A police spokesman said it's still unclear how the debit card numbers were skimmed -- whether it was a server, bookkeeper, a hacker from outside the restaurant or the company supplying the credit card machines to the restaurant.

A manager at the restaurant told 7NEWS, "We do business in the community. We don't want to cheat anyone. We want our customers to come back. We plan to cooperate with police in whatever way we can."

"Obviously, it's happening," said Maestas. She had to borrow money from her cousin just to buy groceries this week. A friend at work also loaned her $40 in cash. Maestas has filed a fraud claim with her bank.

"I just want people to know this is happening," she said.

By Russell Haythorn

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