Mystery bank charges in SWLA uncovered

Mystery SWLA credit/debit charges uncovered

JENNINGS, LA (KPLC) - Tricia McClelland has been banking with Jeff Davis Bank for seven years and has never had a problem.

"They [Jeff Davis Bank] are awesome.... Even to this point, they're good" said McClelland.

That was until her account was hit for over three hundred dollars in purchases made farther than 300 miles away, that she knew nothing about.

"They made two different transactions in New York at a Tops Market.  One was for $102 and the other one was for $200.

McClelland is just one of many in the Southwest Louisiana area, primarily in Jennings, who recently noticed fraudulent charges in their bank accounts which sparked a federal investigation.

"They're doing the investigation because I'm not the only one, there was a batch of numbers. This happened to a lot of people" said McClelland.

The incident was traced to a restaurant in Jennings.  Hackers, believed to be from overseas, got hold of a list of credit/debit card numbers from the restaurants Point of Sale terminal and sold those numbers online, which jeopardized residents in the area.

US Secret Service Agent Lou Velez in Baton Rouge, confirmed the findings of the investigation.

"The restaurant in Jennings was breached through a network intrusion of their POS system- point of sale system. The bad guys were able to obtain the cards, show the cards online and people purchased those cards and used them" said Agent Velez.

Carmen Million of the Better Business Bureau in Lake Charles, says this type of fraudulent activity is unfortunately common.

"In most cases people have inadvertently given out their personal information, their banking accounts, their social security numbers and before you know it they're victims of identity theft" said Million.

According to Velez, "the biggest thing a consumer can do is check their account regularly.  Whether it's once a week...  it's your bank account so you should know what's going on with it."

And McClelland, now speaking from personal experience, has some advice for others.

"It doesn't matter if you even use a check" she says.  "Your check is ran electronically... they can use your numbers."

Agent Velez said that because the situation has been resolved and to protect the safety of the restaurant in Jennings, the name of the restaurant will not be released.  He says that if you feel you may be a victim of identity theft of fraudulent bank charges, you should monitor your account daily and stay in constant communication with your banks.

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