Fake keychain credit cards latest scam on retailers

SATURDAY, AUG. 11, 2007

Local retailers have been hit by a new spin on credit-card fraud: the use of fake keychain charge cards.

The counterfeit mini-cards, similar to the keychain cards issued by video stores and grocery retailers, have been used in past weeks on transactions at businesses in Spokane. The cards were first introduced by Discover in 2002 and have become increasingly popular since then.

“This is a huge problem for retailers,” said Zan Deery of the Better Business Bureau in Spokane, which issued an alert to members regarding the scams. “The keychain credit card itself, as a visual, should be raising a red flag right now for any front line staff or security people.”

The Davenport Hotel and local branches of Albertson’s and Safeway have been victims of the scam, Deery said.

The scammers are using fabricated keychain cards with numbers that may or may not correspond to existing accounts. A crime pattern emerged at a monthly meeting of security representatives from area retailers. The meetings are organized by the fraud department of the Spokane Police Department, Deery said.

“This is a brand new thing,” said Tom McArthur, communications director of The Davenport Hotel.

The hotel was hit in late July by an unsuccessful scammer, who left the hotel when a clerk questioned him.

A fraudulent keychain card that was used to pay a bill at the hotel last week corresponded to the account of a Seattle man, who was notified by his bank that his card was being used in Spokane, McArthur said.

“We didn’t really have our guard up at that point. We do now,” McArthur said.

Deery advised area business owners to ask for second or even third forms of identification when customers seek to pay with the mini-cards.

Fraud detectives with the police department could not be reached for comment.

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