Cyber-Thieves Steal $700K Via ATM Hacking

Cyber-thieves who hacked into the ATM information of at least 800 retail customers in California and Oregon have stolen as much as $700,000 from personal accounts during the last two months, according to police reports.

People who used ATM cards to purchase items at Dollar Tree, a national retail toy store chain, in Modesto and Carmichael, Calif., and Ashland, Ore., have turned in reports of unauthorized withdrawals in the computer-based scam.

Federal and local investigators would not discuss with eWEEK how the thieves stole the information. How many shoppers have been victimized is also an open question.

Brady Mills, supervisor of the Sacramento field office of the U.S. Secret Service, confirmed to eWEEK Aug. 4 that the agency is investigating the thefts and that the bureau has been on the case for about two months.

But Mills would only say that the case is “ongoing” and wouldn’t offer any more details about possible suspects or about the process in which the money was stolen.

Dollar Tree Stores is a U.S.-based chain of retail stores headquartered in Chesapeake, Va. Every item sold in the stores is offered for either $1 or less, thus making it a true dollar store. As of July 29, 2006, Dollar Tree operates 3,156 stores in 48 states.

Dollar Tree customers in Modesto began reporting unauthorized ATM withdrawals from their bank accounts on June 12, a report in the Modesto Bee newspaper said.

Local police said that more than 600 accounts were drained of approximately $500,000, according to the report.

On Aug. 1, police in Ashland confirmed that at least 200 people lost more than a total $200,000 due to unauthorized bank account withdrawals after shopping at Dollar Tree stores in the Rogue Valley region of southern Oregon.

In the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael, a shift manager at the Dollar Tree store told eWEEK on Aug. 4 that there hadn’t been any ATM-related theft reports for “about two or three weeks” but did confirm that there were “a number of ATM theft claims filed at the store in June and July.”

She referred eWEEK to Dollar Tree Store headquarters, which was closed for the day.

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