International Identity Theft Strikes in Region 8

June 22, 2006 - Posted at 5:49 p.m. CST

POPLAR BLUFF, MO -- You've heard about identity theft occurring from dumpster diving and internet phishing and now a new form of ATM scamming is crossing the pond. It's a method people walk right into and don't even know it.

Most times thieves are after dollars, but in this case, they were after rons.

"I feel very fortunate I got word of it from a credit card company that said there was a transaction on Saturday morning. They told me to check with my Credit Union with the debit card, so I checked and there had actually been a lot of activity for about ten days at several ATM's in Bulgaria. And well, that was pretty surprising!" said Bruce Beck, a recent victim of identity theft.

"The exchange rate is 3.74 to our dollar. So its in a third world country where their money is not worth quiet as much," said Kay Stone of the Poplar Bluff Federal Credit Union, "They start high and go down until they hit where it's approved and then they do that two or three times a day and then they may try six to eight times until they finally hit pay dirt."

Fortunately for Beck, things are straightened out now. But thieves had nearly taken him for $1,000 before he figured out what was going on.

"Somebody obviously got the information and was able to send it to someone in Bulgaria. They were able to make a card off that information and keep accessing ATM's for money," said Beck.

It's a scam that can happen to anyone, anywhere. Thieves stealing debit card and pin numbers from ATM's. In fact, Beck isn't even sure where, or when it happened to him.

"Usually machines are not tampered with if they are inside a building. But if they are freestanding, at the edge of a parking lot or if they are outside, like a drive-through ATM, then those are more often the ones they would add the skimming devices to," said Stone.

If you suspect you've fallen victim to identity theft, immediately notify your financial institution. It's also recommended that a police report be filed.

Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies below to place a fraud alert on your credit report.

You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too.

Equifax : 1-800-525-6285; ; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374- 0241

Experian : 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); ; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion : 1-800-680-7289; ; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you're entitled to order free copies of your credit reports.