Several credit unions in Northeast Ohio, including the Cleveland-based, $311 million Century Federal Credit Union, were affected by a debit card fraud breach that began in April, according to reports from the suburban North Olmsted Police Department.
Police reports indicate that criminals made fraudulent purchases from six Century FCU accounts, as well as from two accounts at the Cleveland-based, $180 million Firefighters Community Credit Union, two accounts at the Parma, Ohio-based $100 million PSE Credit Union, one account at the Cleveland-based, $36 million Steel Valley Federal Credit Union and one account at the Akron, Ohio-based, $180 million GenFed Credit Union.
Century President/CEO Tony Coniglio told Credit Union Times that more than just six of his members were affected – the CU has received reports of fraud from about 200 of its 26,000 members to date.
Coniglio said Century Federal CU has issued refunds to all members that fell victim to fraud, including any fees they incurred.
“This is very unusual, and it’s the first time it’s happened to us,” Coniglio said.
Criminals reportedly obtained account numbers through a retailer and then created counterfeit debit cards to make purchases, Coniglio said.
According to police reports, fraudulent purchases were made in locations across the U.S., including California and Alabama, and took place at a number of large retailers including Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Belk and Victoria’s Secret. Banks affected by the breach include Charter One Bank, Ohio Savings Bank, Dollar Bank and Huntington Bank, reports state.
Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer newspaper listed two other credit unions that were hit by the breach: The $34 million, Cleveland-based, First Class Credit Union (formerly Cleveland Postal Employees Credit Union) and the Walton Hills, Ohio-based, $98 million Best Reward Credit Union.
Best Reward Credit Union President and CEO John Shirilla said he could not confirm a breach at his institution.
“All I know for a fact is that we did not suffer a breach, and I’m assuming that our name ended up in the paper because it was listed on a police report obtained by the writer,” Shirilla said.
The Cleveland Electronic Crimes Task Force, a division of the U.S. Secret Service, is investigating the debit card fraud case, Smokey Everett, special agent in charge, told Credit Union Times.
The Plain Dealer said numerous reports of debit card fraud were filed at police departments in the Cleveland suburbs, including three dozen at the Middleburg Heights Police Department and four at the Parma Police Department. Fraudulent purchases reportedly totaled as much as $4,000 on a single account and took place in several different states as well as in Australia, Germany and the Philippines, the paper said.
Ohio Credit Union League spokesman Patrick Harris said the League first became aware of the incident after reading the Plain Dealer article and was not contacted by any of the credit unions listed by the paper. The League plans to reach out to the reportedly affected CUs, Harris said.
The League also took the news as an opportunity to further voice its opposition to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-Ohio) June 8 vote against an amendment that would have delayed the Federal Reserve’s effort to cap debit card interchange fees charged to retailers.
Harris said the League sent Brown a copy of the Plain Dealer article to demonstrate how credit unions can suffer in instances of debit card fraud.
“This is another example of how the burden falls on the financial institution and not the retailer,” Harris said.
Coniglio said Century Federal CU is advising members on how to avoid fraud by posting tips on its website, but points out that no member is immune to fraud.
“I don’t care what you do today – you’re vulnerable,” Coniglio said. “You’re not always going to be safe and secure.”