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More victims in debit card fraud at Aldi stores
By Susan Sarkauskas | Daily Herald Staff

Aldi has its U.S. headquarters on Kirk Road in Batavia.

 

Mark Black | Staff Photographer

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Published: 9/24/2010 12:04 PM | Updated: 9/24/2010 5:07 PM

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At least 30 St. Charles residents have come forward since Sept. 16, claiming they were victims of debit card fraud involving area Aldi stores, according to St. Charles police.

The police are investigating along with the Secret Service. St. Charles police said the thieves are using stolen personal information from debit card terminals to withdraw money at ATMs in California.

The Kane County Sheriff's Department has also received about 20 reports in the last week, and Elburn had received at least four.

The thieves stole personal identification numbers as well as data contained in the magnetic strip on the back of debit cards customers used to purchase items at the stores. That information is now being used to steal money from their bank accounts via automated teller machines.

There is one Aldi store in St. Charles, on West Main Street. There are also Aldi stores in Geneva, Batavia, North Aurora and Sugar Grove. Elburn police have reported that several residents who shopped at an Aldi have had their data stolen.

Reports of the fraud have surfaced in other suburbs and in Indiana. Wheeling had more than 160 reports of such thefts, and Buffalo Grove more than 50.

In the St. Charles cases, anyone with information is asked to contact Cmdr. Jerry Gatlin at (630) 443-3739.

A spokeswoman for Aldi declined to say what Aldi has done to improve the security of customers' data, except that it examined its terminals at all stores and removed some that were "compromised." She declined to say how the machines were compromised (such as if number-and-PIN skimming devices were attached), or where the compromised terminals were located, saying Aldi wanted "to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation." Secret Service spokesman Kristina Schmidt of the Chicago field office also declined to provide specifics about locations, the number of victims, the amount of money stolen and how the crime was executed.

There are various kinds of skimmer technology. Besides copying account data, some have tiny cameras that record the movement of a person's fingers as they punch in a PIN number.

Aldi stores accept PIN-based debit-card transactions, including debit cards from banks and government food-benefits programs such as the Illinois LINK card. Aldi does not accept credit cards.

Both St. Charles police and Schmidt urged people to consider setting lower limits on authorized transactions for their bank accounts, to avoid having a bank account drained by a thief. Schmidt also urged people to check their bank account balances frequently, not just the once-a-month statement, and to consider using a credit card to make purchases instead of a debit card.