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May 6th, 2008

Identity Theft Scam In Lunardi’s Supermarket In Los Gatos

People who used their bank debit cards at a Lunardi’s Supermarket in Los Gatos have become victims of an identity theft scam.  So far 150 victims identified and the number is expected to grow, Los Gatos police Capt. Dave Gravel said.

An ATM and credit card reader in a checkout aisle at the Los Gatos Lunardi’s supermarket was recently switched, already resulting in more than two dozen reported cases of identity theft. Police received the first reports from victims who said their credit or debit cards had been used fraudulently on Sunday night and additional victim reports continued on Monday and today. Police believe the victims all had their card numbers stolen at the Los Gatos Lunardi’s, 720 Blossom Hill Road, after officials from Lunardi’s contacted them about a problem with one of their card readers.

The thieves transferred that bank information onto cloned cards – any card with a magnetic stripe can be used – and made cash withdrawals from ATMs in Southern California.

Recent shoppers of the Los Gatos Lunardi’s should check the status of their bank or credit card accounts for charges they did not make, according to police. Through an attorney, the Lunardi family, which owns the upscale grocery chain, also declined to discuss specifics about the technology used. In a statement, the owners said the chain “in no way wants to compromise the ongoing investigation by law enforcement authorities or to reveal details of our security measures which could counteract their effectiveness.”

George Silvestri, an attorney for Lunardi’s, said the chain has replaced the payment devices at all seven of its Bay Area locations with machines that are locked onto the checkout stands.

Lunardi’s employees with access to these devices have been trained in security procedures recommended by law enforcement and banking authorities. The thefts at Lunardi’s in Los Gatos comes about three weeks after police uncovered a similar scam at an Arco AM/PM in Los Altos.

Anyone who finds fraudulent charges on an account should contact the local police department or the Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Department at (408) 354-8600.

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