U Card theft poses problems

University bookstores have difficulty monitoring fraudulent U Card charges.

Video cameras and student security personnel at University of Minnesota Bookstores may catch thieves trying to make off with unpaid merchandise, but when it comes to identity theft, they are unable to detect or catch it. Running up exorbitant amounts of money at University bookstores on a stolen U Card can be very easy for a thief to do, because itâÄôs difficult to monitor, University bookstore Director Bob Crabb said. Every bookstore purchase made with a U Card must be verified with a signature at the time of sale, which is supposed to be compared to the signature on the back of the card, Crabb said. Older U Cards, however, have space for a person to write their signature but do not have them printed on the backs. Employees are trained to verify a customerâÄôs identification by looking at the photo on the U Card, but Crabb said U Card pictures are often hard to distinguish. âÄú[Cashiers] should be [checking cards], but the pictures arenâÄôt all that great,âÄù Crabb said. âÄúItâÄôs not 100 percent.âÄù The only surefire way to prevent phony U card usage is to report a lost card as soon a person notices itâÄôs gone, Crabb said. If a card is reported missing, it will be listed as inactive and purchases cannot be made with it again. âÄúBesides checking the picture on the card and comparing the person thatâÄôs standing there, thereâÄôs not much else you can do,âÄù Crabb said. âÄúWe do everything we can.âÄù Stolen cards can be reported to the U Card office over the phone or at one of the three U Card locations on campus. The U Card office advises alerting TCF Bank once a card goes missing as well if the card is tied to a TCF account. Sometimes by the time a person notices their card is missing, a fraudulent transaction has already taken place. A member of the womenâÄôs swimming and diving team had more than $400 worth of merchandise charged to her student account at the Coffman Union bookstore after her U Card was stolen from her aquatic center locker during a swim meet Feb. 15. Lissa Tommerdahl , a first-year biology student, was alerted to the charges when her father called to inquire about the sudden, large purchases. The person purchased a 32 Gigabyte iPod touch, an EZ skin for the iPod, and a hard case for a Macbook using TommerdahlâÄôs U Card, according to the police report filed for the case. Tommerdahl said she doesnâÄôt understand how it would be so easy for somebody to make the purchases at the bookstore with procedures in place to make sure it doesnâÄôt happen. âÄúThe U Card has my picture on it, and they should probably look at that,âÄù Tommerdahl said. âÄúPlus, you have to sign for it. They should see that thatâÄôs not my signature.âÄù Once a theft has been made, video surveillance equipment in the bookstore may be used to assist police in finding the thief, but the cameraâÄôs positioning may complicate the matter. A camera must be focused on a register at the time of the transaction in order to get a clear view of the perpetratorâÄôs face, Crabb said. âÄúIf the camera happens to have been trained on the register, weâÄôd have a video of the person that made that transaction,âÄù Crabb said. âÄúWeâÄôve used that probably two or three times in the last few years to catch people.âÄù University police Lt. Chuck Miner said they are working with University Bookstores and reviewing the surveillance footage concerning TommerdahlâÄôs case, but would not discuss their progress because the case is still under investigation. Crabb said students should treat their U Cards like a credit card. âÄúIf you lose your credit card, you need to report it,âÄù he said.