Cloned cards used to steal money from citizen and officer alike - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Cloned cards used to steal money from citizen and officer alike

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Crooks are stealing legitimate card numbers and making fake cards. (Source: MGN Online) Crooks are stealing legitimate card numbers and making fake cards. (Source: MGN Online)

Police in Jackson County are sending out a very personal warning about debit card fraud.

Hollywood Police Chief Jason Hepler says card users need to be on the alert in case their cards have been cloned.

A cloned card is essentially a fraudulently-produced credit or debit card, identical to the size, shape and feel of a genuine card. The card is printed with a stolen account number, and the magnetic strip on the back contains the exact same routing and account information the real card does.

In other words, a cloned card will have the same purchasing power for a crook that the genuine card has for the victim, and in many cases, the victim's card is still in their possession.

In an alert on his department's Facebook page, Hepler cautions "It is a very simple process for people to clone your credit card, and the equipment to do it is very cheap. They either then sell your information to a third party or keep it for their own use."

Hepler said he has been trying to gather information about reports that area businesses may have been hacked and personal information collected from them.

The issue came acutely to his attention personally, he said, when his own debit card was cloned and he was ripped off to the tune of hundreds of dollars.

"I talked with a bank today, Hepler said in his Facebook message "(since my debit card was apparently cloned and used this weekend a whole bunch) and they had something like 150 people on a list they were having to call and tell them their card is compromised."

Hepler said he is only using cash and checks at the present time. He has advice for anyone using plastic to pay - advice he had to learn the hard way.

"I really want people to start paying attention. Everybody feels like their debit cards are safe because there's fraud monitoring, but it doesn't always catch. The same day my card was being used in Louisville, it was being used in Scottsboro, where I was making purchases. And you would think the fraud activity alert would catch that, but it didn't," said Hepler.

Hepler said he's planning to work with Scottsboro Police to identify how and where card information is being stolen. He urges people to take precautions such as using cash more often and keeping an eye on wait staff when you hand over your card.

If you're using your card at an ATM or gas pump, make sure you're not swiping through some strange piece of equipment stuck on the outside of it, and keep an eye on your bank balance so you can report any fraudulent withdrawals.

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