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Local Michaels shoppers hit in debit card fraud

Updated: June 9, 2011 12:30AM

Suzie Steinmetz of Naperville is one of untold Chicago area residents who have lost money and had their financial identities compromised following what appears to be credit and debit card PIN pad tampering at local Michaels stores.

Like other victims, Steinmetz shopped earlier this year at a Michaels outlet — in her case, on April 11 and several subsequent days at the store at 2768 W. Aurora Ave., on Naperville’s far west side.

On the last weekend in April, two unauthorized withdrawals of $500 each were made on her bank account from automated teller machines in California. It’s become a pattern local police are seeing more and more often.

Dan Ferrelli, spokesman for the Aurora Police Department, confirmed Thursday police there have taken reports from several residents who apparently had their debit or credit card accounts compromised after shopping at the Naperville Michaels outlet. Those complaints have been forwarded to Naperville police, Ferrelli said.

Naperville police Sgt. Gregg Bell would only say police from his agency have fielded 15 or 20 complaints related to the same store.

Derrick Golden, assistant to the special agent in charge of the secret service’s Chicago field office, declined comment.

“We’ve had this case not even 24 hours ,” Golden said. “We’re still in preliminary investigations right now.”

Credit and debit card information can be stolen by tapping the payment machines at store checkout counters. Thieves can also recruit store employees, who replace one PIN pad with another and make off with the one containing personal identification numbers and other privileged information.

Doug Marker, vice president of loss prevention and safety for Michaels Stores Inc. in Irving, Texas, said in a release company officials learned of the problem after-hours on Monday. That was when they were contacted by officials of a bank that suspected Michaels’ Chicago-area stores might be a common link in several fraudulent transactions, Marker said.

“Consumers who have purchased items from a Michaels store with a debit or credit card are encouraged to monitor their statements, report any suspicious account activity and change any PIN numbers and other account security settings,” Marker said. Those who believe their accounts have been used without their authorization “should contact the card issuer directly,” he said.

In addition to Naperville, Michaels has locations in Bloomingdale, Bolingbrook, Downers Grove, Geneva, Joliet and Oswego.

Matt Hanley contributed to this report.

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