University police monitor credit card fraud

UMPD has received at least 10 cases of credit card fraud since last fall.

University police monitor credit card fraud

Ethan Nelson

Earlier this month, Jinfeng Yang received an angry call from his mother over a $2,500 purchase on his credit card.

But Yang didn’t spend the money, and his card was still sitting in his wallet.

Despite filing a police report with the University of Minnesota Police Department and a complaint with his credit card company, Yang said he doesn’t know who used his card, where it was used or what it was used for.

“It wasn’t that somebody stole my card,” said Yang, an electrical engineering senior. “Maybe someone had copied my information.”

In credit card fraud cases like Yang’s, UMPD officers can’t do much to investigate since there is little information available, said University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner.

In other cases — like when students’ debit or credit cards are stolen and immediately used at nearby gas stations — police have an easier time tracking down suspects, Miner said.

“When it’s local, that opens up many more opportunities for us to investigate,” Miner said.

Since last fall, UMPD received about two dozen cases of stolen wallets or debit or credit cards, and at least 10 reports of card fraud, according to the department’s crime logs. In the last month, UMPD received at least seven reports of stolen wallets or unauthorized use of cards.

Miner said some cases go unreported to police, even though many people inform their credit card companies of theft or fraud.

And in the numerous cases of stolen purses, wallets and backpacks, Miner said, credit and debit cards are often lifted, too.

The crimes’ proximity to the University, how much information credit card companies have and how cooperative business owners are all factor into the success of fraud investigations, Miner said.

Officers direct reports of credit card thefts to the city’s forgery and fraud unit, which then decides if an investigation is necessary.

Joseph Conway, a genetics, cell biology and development junior, reported his debit card stolen to both UMPD and TCF Bank in June after its information was used in Glen Allen, Va.

Since the crime occurred outside of UMPD’s jurisdiction, Glen Allen’s police would have handled Conway’s case, Miner said.

“The fact that it’s interstate brings up a new issue,” said Nick Juarez, the crime prevention specialist for Minneapolis’ second precinct. “It will sometimes become a federal case, especially in phishing cases.”

UMPD is more likely to lead an entire investigation for local cases, Miner said, and in cases like Conway’s, they refer victims to another police department. And for Yang, who belongs to the Bank of China, the situation is even more complicated.

Both Yang and Conway deactivated their cards — the first step for victims of physically stolen credit cards, said Mark Goldman, a spokesman for TCF Bank.

“Thieves know they have maybe an hour to use [credit cards] before they’re canceled,” Juarez said.

But if instead someone steals a person’s card numbers, thieves could have until the victim checks his or her account, he said.

Juarez said victims should file a police report immediately after contacting the credit card company.

“Sometimes you’ll need that to help prove to the company that there was fraud,” he said.

TCF Bank cardholders aren’t liable for any fraudulent transactions that may appear on their accounts, Goldman said. Conway, for example, received a refund from TCF Bank.

“Preventing these kinds of things can be tricky,” Juarez said, suggesting students cut down on what they carry with them and memorize their cards’ numbers.

“If you have four credit cards, do you really need them?” he said. “Just carry the one.”