Five university departments fell victim to possible credit card fraud according to the Procurement Office, and University Police Department officials, who were notified Jan. 3.
The credit card vendor contacted the office in regards to expenses at two Home Depot stores and online purchases in California.
The five departments—Language, Literacy & Special Populations, Curriculum & Instruction, Foreign Language, Health & Kinesiology and Family Consumer Science—were immediately contacted to review purchases on their individual accounts. All university departments were advised to watch for suspicious transactions.
"With the purchases being made in other states, there is a chance that the numbers were obtained somehow and then new cards were made and sold to individuals in California," Deputy Chief James Fitch said.
UPD is currently working with the Procurement Office, Bearkat One and various educational departments, to assist people with using the purchasing credit cards safely and correctly to prevent more occurrences. They are also working with the stores to obtain surveillance video of the culprit.
"The Procurement Office requires card holders of the university to attend training prior to using the card," Chief Kevin Morris, Director of UPD, said. "In addition, this same office requires card holders to attend additional training and updates according to their training schedule. The training includes precautions that the card holder should take."
According to UPD, financial crimes can be difficult cases to investigate because they require so much information. Cases such as these can typically take three to six months to solve even when a suspect is provided. In this case, it is uncertain how the credit cards number were obtained.
"Either a company's database that stores consumer credit card information was breached and obtained, or the credit cards were skimmed and a card was cloned," Morris said. "A credit card can be skimmed or the information can be obtained and not used until six months or a year later."
The total expenses on the credit cards have exceeded $3,776, and no suspect has been provided from the incidents. Information about what was purchased with the credit cards cannot be released due to the ongoing investigation.
According to a Houstonian report in July 2011, about 50 counts of identity theft were reported in the Huntsville area, affecting citizens, faculty, staff and students. Many students discovered that their Bearkat One card money had been used up within a matter of days.
The Huntsville Item reported that hundreds of Huntsville residents were victims of a credit card "skimming" fraud that originated from a virus planted at Margaritas restaurant. That case has been handed to the U.S. Secret Service and is still under investigation.