More than usual number of local residents find fraudulent charges on their accounts

Sandy police officers and a detective are overwhelmed with an investigation into a credit card theft ring that has, at last count, charged nationally and internationally up to $1,200 to each of 110 Sandy residents’ accounts.

Officers do not have any suspects, yet, and they are asking for help to identify anyone who has had access to credit card account information.

Updated information from the Sandy Police Department reported to The Post at 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12, indicates authorities are narrowing their search for suspects. But there are so many reports it is taking time to locate the commonalities, said Police Chief Kim Yamashita.

The U.S. Secret Service has assisted in proving that computer systems in some businesses have Mal-ware or a virus that automatically sends credit card information to an offshore location, where it is used until the suspicious transactions are noticed and the account closed.

Yamashita confirmed to The Post Monday that thus far the only businesses the victims have in common are the local Dairy Queen and the Fred Meyer gas station.

“We’re still trying to sort though all the data,” she said, “to figure out all the commonalities.”

Police have contacted the corporate headquarters for both businesses. Yamashita suggested not using cards at these locations until the problem can be stopped.

“(Both companies’ personnel) have been very cooperative,” Yamashita said. “Both companies have done extensive searches into their systems to help identify where the problem is occurring.”

Now that many of the victims and their banks have noticed the fraudulent charges and their accounts have been closed, the criminal activity seems to have slowed, but Yamashita said her staff hasn’t had time to analyze all the data, and was hesitant to say that the frauds have stopped.

Karey Milne and her husband are among the victims, and she says her bank took care of the pending charges very quickly.

But her husband’s bank required a form filled out and notarized. Within 10 days, the couple had their money back and a new debit card. “It was very inconvenient,” she said.

To avoid this type of theft, Milne said using only cash might be a way, but she’s a bit discouraged.

“With all the technology these days,” she said, “I don’t think it matters how safe you think you are.”

Tanja Thome-Archer who lives outside the city of Sandy, wasn’t affected this time, but she cannot forget the time a few years ago when someone stole her checks from a mailbox and cashed one for thousands.

Nowadays, her credit limit is kept low; she notifies the card company whenever she expects to purchase anything large or out-of-town; and she keeps with her at all times copies of her cards and the 1-800 number so, if there is a theft, she can immediately notify the card company.

All of the electronic thefts in Sandy have occurred during the past 3-4 weeks, which is a much larger than normal number of local incidents for this crime.

Investigators are still receiving reports from victims and searching through the evidence to determine if any other locations, businesses or people are in common or are related to the theft discoveries.

Yamashita suggested some ways to protect oneself from becoming a victim:

“Continue to safeguard your credit cards and their numbers,” she said. “Consider using cash whenever possible, but keep shopping in Sandy.”

Sandy police would like any help available from local residents. They also are encouraging anyone with fraudulent charges on their account to report it to police and to the credit card company. By reporting fraudulent charges, it will help police locate where and how the card information is being stolen.

To provide information at any time, call the Sandy Police Department tip line at 503-489-2195 or during regular weekday open hours, call 503-668-5566.

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