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Major retailer hacked: Employees rip off customers, steal identities

Major retailer hacked: Employees rip off customers, steal identities
© Photomak | Dreamstime

High-end stores like Saks Fifth Avenue invest tremendous effort to create an image of luxury and style. What they probably don't want you to do is worry that their employees will steal your identity and try to rip you off.

But the latest identity theft scam comes from criminals working at Saks. That's right, five employees at one Saks Fifth Avenue location teamed up to steal over $400,000 of name-brand products between April and August of this year.

How did we find out about these five identity thieves? Well, a victim's bank must have noticed some of the fraudulent charges the employees were placing on the victim's account.  That's all well and good, but my first question after finding this story was "How on Earth did it take that long to catch these idiots?"

If a top-tier store can't figure out that it's hiring criminals until after the fact, that means that no store is safe. Saks claims to have spotted the fraudsters "before they any harm was caused," but I don't think that solves the root of the problem.

In this particular situation, scammers were copying affluent customers' card numbers and manually entering the digits to "pay" for pricey products. After the items were purchased with the stolen card information, some were sold on the black market and others returned to the store for gift cards. Some "rewards" program, huh?

What can we learn? It's simple, really. No matter how much cash back a store offers, never give your personal information to someone who wasn't hired to respect your privacy. There are two major ways that scammers can get access to your personal info through a retail store and both of them involve credit cards.

Most of these stores will try to sell you "rewards" credit cards. These credit cards are the same as you'd get in any bank, except you earn store-specific rewards. Saks has a branded credit card and chances are good that any stores that you shop at have them too. When you apply for these store cards, you're probably accustomed to handing over your Social Security Number. Your info on that store card application is everything a crook needs to steal your identity and open up other lines of credit in your name.

Regardless of whether an employee is writing down your credit card number or stealing your SSN, one thing remains clear: Just because someone works at a trusted retailer doesn't mean that they can be trusted.

Need a refresher on the latest scams to watch out for? Here are some dangerous ones:

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