Authorities from jurisdictions around the St. Louis area are confirming reports in recent days that Schnucks, the Maryland Heights-based grocery chain, may have had its credit card collection system compromised, making consumers vulnerable to identity theft.
Creve Coeur Police and the St. Louis County Police are some of the agencies which have taken reports.
The St. Louis County Wildwood Precinct posted an alert on its Facebook page Wednesday stating the department has taken numerous reports for fraudulent use of a credit device. Police also warned, "You may have seen the news and learned there had been a recent epedemic of these reports throughout St. Louis County and its municipalities. We are asking that you be vigilant in checking your accounts for any unauthorized transactions."
Creve Coeur Police Lt. Jon Romas told Patch that the agency has seen an "uptick" in identity theft reports, but cautioned that it is not solely stemming from any single business.
The company told KSDK-TV Tuesday:
"Schnucks became aware on March 15 that some customers had noticed unauthorized charges on their card statements for credit cards they used at Schnucks. Schnucks immediately began to investigate these reports and has engaged outside experts, including a nationally recognized forensic firm, to assist. We are also cooperating with law enforcement authorities.
Patch left a message seeking comment from a company spokeswoman Wedneday.
Kris Schmidt, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the St. Louis field office of the U.S. Secret Service said her agency is not yet officially involved in the investigation to determine the "point of compromise" but confirmed that the Secret Service has been in touch with local law enforcement agencies.
From her vantage point, Schmidt said the Schnucks case appeared to be a more high-tech version of identity theft, where a third party vendor that manages credit and debit card sales was targeted. Whoever did it then could essentially sell the information online to people who take it, make new cards, and then try to make purchases in far flung locations out of state.
In many cases, consumers get flagged by their banks about the transaction in question, and can clear the expense from their record.
Should shoppers be concerned about paying with a credit or debit card at Schnucks? "We all just need to be proactive in general," Schmidt said, encouraging consumers to continually check their credit card statements if they've shopped there. In this age where everyone shops with a card, Schmidt likened it to leaving your garage door open. If you leave it open long enough, eventually someone's going to come in.
"The opportunity's always there to be compromised," Schmidt said.
Schmidt said she was not aware of other cases like this locally relating to other retailers.