Following several Facebook posts about a sudden spike in credit card fraud cases around Yale, students have taken it upon themselves to contact the Yale Police Department and instigate an investigation.
Kate Ruggeri ART ’16 first posted a message on her Facebook page earlier this month inquiring as to whether, like her, other students had experienced credit card fraud. According to Ruggeri, her post received more than 80 comments, with students — mostly from the School of Art — sharing stories of fraudulent charges and stolen credit card information. Following these responses, Ruggeri contacted the Yale Police Department around two weeks ago and has since then been the point person for the case.
Victims of the recent credit card fraud cases include both undergraduate and graduate students. All nine students interviewed said they had all recently received notifications from their banks about fraudulent credit card charges made in locations across the nation, ranging from California to Pennsylvania.
Deputy University Press Secretary Karen Peart said the YPD is currently working with the CT Financial Crimes Task Force to investigate two reports.
Another message, posted on the Facebook page Overheard At Yale by Elle Perez GRD ’15, called for students to provide information for the investigation. Comments on this post revealed that the credit card fraud incidents spread beyond the art school into the wider Yale community.
“I posted a message on Facebook after finding out that lots of School of Art students had also experienced credit card fraud,” Ruggeri said. “I think that some stores we all go to may be responsible for this.”
Ruggeri, who has had her debit card information stolen three times since she arrived at Yale this past fall, said she initially wanted to brainstorm which stores or restaurants around Yale may be responsible for the fraud incidents. Since there seems to be a concentration of cases in the art school population, she said that it is most likely somewhere in the school’s vicinity. After contacting the YPD, Ruggeri has continued to aid the investigation by collecting bank statements and transactions from other victims for the detective on the case.
All the victims interviewed said their banks fully reimbursed the money they lost through the fraudulent charges and only three of the nine contacted police authorities. Many of them said they were unsure how their credit card information was stolen and opinion was split as to whether the frauds had occurred online or locally.
Keren Abreu ’15 said she recently made purchases at several local stores as well as from Amazon.com. While she is unsure how her information was stolen, she said that another Yale student who had fraudulent charges on their card from the same location she did, also made a recent purchase on Amazon.
Other students have attempted to discover the source of fraud through hearsay. Nathaniel Toppelberg ’15 said he heard the local Walgreens may have been hacked and also suggested Amazon as a possible source, given the large amount of purchases Yale students make through the website. James Diao ’18 also said he believes that the fraud may have occurred through the internet since he frequently shops online.
But Perez, who has experienced credit card fraud twice since February, said she believes a local store is responsible for the crimes.
“I’m guessing it’s probably a business we all frequent since it seem to only be happening in this isolated group of people,” she said. “None of my friends outside Yale seem to be having a problem, but nearly all of my friends who go to school or frequent Chapel Street between Howe and York are.”
Ruggeri also said she believes that the frauds are occurring at a local store, both from her personal experience and from her involvement with the police investigation. She said four to five places have repeatedly appeared in the victims’ transactions and she has “more than a hunch” of the store responsible for the crimes.
Several of the victims said that they were suspicious of Barracuda, a restaurant on Chapel Street, because it is a new restaurant. Four of the nine victims interviewed have said they recently visited the restaurant. Robert Pecoraro ’15, another victim of credit card fraud , expressed this suspicion, adding that the friend whom he visited the restaurant with also experienced credit card fraud recently.
A hostess at Barracuda said the restaurant’s staff was unaware of any cases of credit card fraud and had not received any complaints from customers.
In 2013,. a person was the victim of credit card fraud every two seconds in the U.S.