By Jeff Gallatin
Bay Village police are investigating 18 confirmed incidents in the last three months in which someone gained access to another’s bank account and withdrew funds illegally, with all the different incidents currently totaling about $23,500.
Detective Jay Elish said investigators believe one person is involved in most or all of the incidents, which began in August.
“Based on video and pictures we’ve obtained, it appears to be the same white male involved in most of these cases,” Elish said. “We’re working on developing a better description of the suspect, but it looks like the same individual.”
Elish said the suspect has gotten funds from customers of at least six banks.
“He’s hit several different ones during the incidents,” he said. “We’ve connected to at least these 18 incidents, but it’s likely there will others as we continue to look into it.”
In addition to Bay Village branches of the banks, Elish said it appears there are incidents in Avon Lake and North Ridgeville as well.
“We’re also passing on the information to other cities as well,” he said.
Elish said investigating officers don’t think it’s likely the thief has been using a bank skimmer to get the funds.
“It’s widespread; he’s hit a lot of banks,” Elish said. “It’s more likely that he’s gained access to the processing center or the actual credit cards and is using the information to get at the funds that way.”
Detective Lt. Mark Spaetzel reminded people to be careful when they’re using their credit cards or handling bank-related information.
“Be aware of who is around you and try to minimize the changes where people might be able to see your information,” he said. “It’s tougher because they’ve gotten very sophisticated in how they gain access to your information. Sometimes, they gain access when you give the information to someone on an unsecured site. You have to be very careful nowadays.”
Spaetzel said people should check their bank statements and credit cards regularly to make sure everything is in order.
“There are three major credit bureaus, and you can get a free credit report at least annually,” he said. “And you can check your bank statements whenever they come out, as well as checking it on the phone or Internet. If you see something suspicious, you should call the bank immediately and cancel the transaction, if need be. And you should contact the police department.”