May 10, 2011 at 6:05 PM ET
The PIN pad tampering that struck Chicago-area Michaels stores now seems to have spread to its stores nationwide, with unauthorized ATM withdrawals of up to $500 at a time reported stolen out of victims' accounts.
Krebs on Security reports police have speculated about the widespread nature of crimes, which were first reported at the craft stores' Chicago-area last week:
Investigators close to the case, but who asked to remain anonymous because they did not have permission to speak publicly, said that at least 70 compromised point-of-sale terminals have been discovered so far in Michaels stores from Washington D.C. to the West Coast.
The report cites an Illinois detective who told Krebs that "most of the fraudulent withdrawals have taken place at cash machines in Las Vegas and other parts of the West." This detective "estimates that actual card losses from the fraud are now in the millions of dollars."
The 27-year-old Texas-based chain — which has 1,049 stores nationwide and 35 stores in the Chicago area — issued an alert about potential debit and credit card fraud affecting its customers, warning them to also check their accounts for any unusual activity.
PIN pad tampering can take on many forms — such as installing a program that skims card information or replacing the entire device to record numbers — but the investigators who talked to Krebs indicated that these criminals used whatever data they stole to create counterfeit ATM cards, which with the PINs they've acquired, gives them instant access to a victim's accounts.
Anyone who thinks they may be a victim of this to report it to their card issuer directly.