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Nathan Bowe, Forum News Service, Published November 15 2013

Rash of fraud reports involving credit, debit cards reported in Detroit Lakes

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Area residents are advised to check their bank statements following a rash of fraud reports involving misuse of credit cards and debit cards.

“We’ve really been getting hit with it today,” Detroit Lakes Police Chief Tim Eggebraaten said Thursday.

The department fielded about a dozen complaints about unauthorized charges on cards, including several made at big-box stores in Texas.

As of Friday, the Police Department had received 35 to 40 complaints.

Many of the illegal charges were made on Bremer Bank cards, but a number were also made on other bank cards, Eggebraaten said.

One Bremer customer, Brian Halstensgaard of Detroit Lakes, said he lost more than $700 in 15 illegal transactions, all at a Wal-Mart in Plano, Texas, from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning.

He found out about the problem via social media.

“It was a rude awakening,” he said. “I would rather have found out about it from the bank.”

A bank employee told him Thursday it could take up to 10 days before the lost funds would be restored.

“That’s the part I don’t like – 10 hours would be fine,” he said. But with bills to pay, he was going to check back with Bremer officials on Friday to see if they could help with emergency funding.

Isolated incidents of credit card fraud are common, but a cluster of local cases like this one is unusual, Eggebraaten said.

Investigators are looking for patterns, but have not found the common denominator in the local bank card case.

The fraudulent activity occurred over the past few days and centered on the Detroit Lakes area, said Bremer Bank President Ron Mueller.

Customers of Bremer and other banks were victimized by the card fraud, and lost varying amounts of money.

Mueller declined to provide the specific number of customers affected or the overall loss to the bank, but said all Bremer customers are being made financially whole.

The bank is still investigating the case, but has identified those customers who lost money and is attempting to contact them by phone or letter.

Eggebraaten urged residents to check their bank and credit card accounts online or in print for any unauthorized transactions. If any are found, customers should contact their bank or credit card company immediately and call the Detroit Lakes Police Department at (218) 847-4222 to report it.