The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Authorities nab bank scam suspect

Marcela Berrios | Thursday, September 6, 2007

Authorities in Fullerton, Calif., arrested an individual Tuesday in connection with the e-mail scam that prompted more than 60 Notre Dame Federal Credit Union (NDFCU) members to give their credit card numbers and passwords to a swindler masquerading as the credit union.

Sgt. Tom Conklin from the Fullerton Police Department said a man was arrested Tuesday at 1 a.m. after the highway patrol pulled over the car he was in and found 18 fraudulent NDFCU debit cards inside. The man was driving a vehicle that had been reported stolen in Chicago.

Conklin did not release the suspect’s name, but he confirmed the man is directly connected to the NDFCU scam that began Friday when users received a series of e-mails that redirected them to a mock-up of the credit union’s Web site. Users were asked to enter their account numbers, passwords and security codes.

NDFCU President Leo Ditchcreek said Tuesday more than 60 customers clicked on the fraudulent link to review their account information after an e-mail told them there were “one or more unsuccessful attempts to log in to your Online Banking Account … from a foreign IP address.”

Ditchcreek said at least five accounts were credited charges and withdrawals that added up to over $2,000.

The credit union’s technology staff tracked the origin of the e-mails and the illegitimate NDFCU Web site to a service provider in the Netherlands. The withdrawals, however, were traced back to the areas around Westminster, Calif.

“The Web site was set up through a service provider in the Netherlands, but whether or not somebody in the Netherlands was involved in the scam is still unclear,” Ditchcreek said. “The suspect was able to use the account numbers and security codes our members entered into the fake Web site to manufacture ATM cards in California using that information and withdraw cash immediately.”

He said the Fullerton Police Department contacted him Wednesday after the discovery of 18 debit cards that matched accounts the NDFCU had blocked as a result of the scam.

“The individual that was arrested [Tuesday in Fullerton] had in his possession 18 different cards with some of our members’ debit card numbers,” Ditchcreek said.

Conklin did not say whether the man was still in custody, nor what charges were or could be brought against him. Conklin also said he did not know if the suspect had any accomplices.

And though the man was directly tied to the NDFCU scam, Ditchcreek said the police didn’t know yet if he was responsible for sending the e-mails or setting up the illegitimate Web site.

The e-mails that went out were directed to a combination of students and the general public, NFCU members and non-members alike, Ditchcreek said. The origin of the e-mail list that was used is still unknown, he said.