One rash of fraud – or two? No one’s telling the customers who have been victimized.

A reader alerted me to some recent reports out of Ohio about a rash – or rashes? – of card fraud. Teresa Dixon Murray reported on the situation at the beginning of the month:

Art Bowker received a call last weekend from his credit union about a suspicious charge on his debit card. Did he buy more than $400 worth of merchandise at a Kmart in Australia the day before, the Berea man was asked.

After replying no, he immediately went to his Century Federal Credit Union branch in North Olmsted, where he said he found a lobby full of about 20 people. All were there to file complaints about debit card fraud.

Authorities aren’t sure if these incidents are related to a rash of debit card fraud last month in the Middleburg Heights-Berea-Strongsville area. At least half of the more than 100 victims were customers of Charter One Bank, and many had used their cards recently at a local pizza shop, police said.

The U.S. Secret Service in Cleveland,which is investigating the recent reports, isn’t saying if any of the cases are connected or could have stemmed from a breach involving a single company that processes transactions for various local merchants.

Read more from The Plain Dealer.

My correspondent writes that some banks have been hit hard and that a particular pizza chain has been pointing its finger at its processor.  But none of that is confirmed and should be properly viewed as just rumor because the investigators are not telling the banks what they know.  And from the tone of the email I received, there may be a lot of frustrated folks in the financial sector who feel that they cannot protect their customers as well as they’d want to because they are being kept in the dark by investigators, card brands and acquirers.  Maybe they don’t know yet, but if they do and are not telling, then let’s have a discussion about that on a national level.

So one incident or two? And merchant or processor?  We have no idea.  When Congress considers data breach notification laws, hopefully they will consider that although law enforcement needs to investigate to catch the bad guys, the consumers also want and need information so that they can make informed decisions about with whom to do business.

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