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January 1, 2013

Credit card fraud hits Greenville residents just before holidays

GREENVILLE — More than 15 people who patronized a local bar were subsequently victims of credit card fraud. According to the victims, their information was used to charge hundreds of dollars to Home Depot stores in California, draining their bank accounts days before Christmas.

The individuals all purchased drinks at the Hangar Bar in Greenville sometime before Thanksgiving Day.

The credit cards, which are held behind the counter when a customer opens up a tab, are charged via a Wi-Fi connection. Johnny Sillers, manager of the Hangar, believes the perpetrator hacked into the wireless connection to steal the information and could have potentially hit other Greenville businesses.

“I don’t think it’s any specific place,” he said. “I’m also doing research that this isn’t the only place. I’ve heard of other establishments that were hacked.”

Sillers said most of his customers are friends and he hopes to find out how the wireless connection was hacked.

“90 percent of the people that come [to the Hangar] are friends and acquaintances,” he said. “I definitely feel for them and I’m hoping for the best.”

Jarrod Buck, owner of Bulldog Transmission in Royse City, was at the Hangar on Nov. 21 and was notified on Dec. 22 by Chase Bank after someone charged $250 to his card.

“I was at Saltgrass at the time, and the charge was for a Home Depot, so I immediately called my bank and shut the card down,” he said. “Thank the Lord it was only $250, and my bank refunded the money almost immediately. But I had a lot of things tied to that debit card: accounts with different parts warehouses, automatic bill payments, etc. I’m going to have to change all of that.”

The two Home Depot stores where Buck’s card was used were both located in Moreno Valley, located in southern California. He estimates the number of people he knows that were a victim of fraud the same night, the evening before Thanksgiving, at around 20.

“The Hangar was very busy that night,” he said. “It was a week night that everyone had off; there must have been 200 people there.”

The incident will change the way Buck uses his credit cards in the future.

“I’ve always been a little reluctant to use a credit card in a bar, because of the atmosphere, but from now on, it will be a cash-only transaction,” he said.

Travis Morrison, who also was at the bar, said he was surprised his bank did not shut down access to his accounts, despite several questionable charges.

“It was quite a suprise when I went Monday morning to Walmart,” he said. “I was disappointed with my bank; when you have 10 different transactions in different Home Depots in California, it should have been caught. But they did say I have a good chance of getting the money back.”

Morrison said he was glad he’d already gotten his Christmas shopping out of the way, but he hopes to get his money back soon.

“I got hit for $1,950,” he said. “Fortunately, I’d already done all my Christmas shopping. It could have been a lot worse.”

According to Morrison, the manager of the bar helped him out.

“It’s not too hard for the internet to be hacked,” he said. “Johnny has been really nice to me, really helpful. He said he was going to get to the bottom if it.”

Calls to the Home Depot locations in California suggest that the purchases were made online, then picked up at the locations.

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