Several area residents have had their debit card numbers stolen recently and even police are not immune.

Ada Assistant Police Chief Carl Allen said his debit card number was stolen and thieves tried to steal money from his bank account.

“I’m just one of the (victims),” Allen said. “There are a bunch of them here in town. I’m not sure what the number is but I’ve heard of several victims from all the banks in town.”

Allen said the debit card numbers are being used in different states. He said no money was actually taken from his account.

“I was pretty lucky because the bank was pretty vigilant,” Allen said. “The illegal transactions had been reported to them. By the time somebody tried to use my number, they had put a stop on it.”

Vision Bank Chief Operating Officer Lavonda Jones said because every bank in town, and some out of town, is affected, it doesn’t appear to be a compromise of any (banking) software. She thinks someone hacked into the system of a local merchant.

Arvest Bank Ada Branch President Yancy Spivey said thieves can hack into a system to get debit card numbers and will either use them or sell them or both. He said most banks monitor banking activity and catch a problem quickly.

“We have an electronic loss department,” Spivey said. “That’s all they do is monitor debit and credit cards. They look for suspicious activity and when they see any, they take a proactive approach and discontinue that particular card’s activity.”

Jones said one way for customers to avoid the fraud is to use the debit card only as a debit card.

“When we issue them a debit card, they can use it as a debit card or a credit card at the merchant level, they choose,” Jones said.

“One being if you use it as a credit card, it still comes out of your account but you’re required to sign the receipt. If you use it as a debit card, you actually put your pin number in. We’re encouraging our customers to use it as a debit card because when the information on these cards is compromised, they create a fraudulent card so they have all the information — card numbers, expiration dates — but they don’t have your PIN number,” Jones said.

Spivey said it is a good idea to sign up for an identity theft program when establishing a bank account and to sign up for Online banking.

“With the different technology banks have now you can receive e-mail alerts when there is activity in your file,” Spivey said. “If you're not signed up for Online banking, I would recommend that.”

He said when a debit card number is compromised, customers have the option of getting a new card number or just using the card for debit purposes only.

“They can actually deactivate the signature portion of the card,” Spivey said, “and leave the PIN activation still active.”

Allen said police are investigating.

“We are going to look into it as much as we can,” Allen said.

“Federal authorities will probably be involved too because it’s pretty widespread.”

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