Fraudsters breach Sidney Federal accounts

Julie Lewis | The Daily StarA branch of Sidney Federal Credit Union on Market Street in Oneonta is shown Monday.

Walton authorities and Sidney Federal Credit Union officials are investigating fraudulent automated teller machine charges that affected about 500 SFCU members in Walton and Oneonta over Labor Day weekend.

James Reynolds, SFCU president and CEO, said bank officials became aware of the issue Saturday evening via social media posts. He said bank officials have been working with authorities to determine if a skimming device was used with SFCU's ATMs and potentially other merchants as well. On Sunday bank officials began investigating the activity, issuing refunds, deactivating existing cards and issuing new ones to those affected. Each transaction was usually in the range of $80 to $100, Reynolds said.

Korey Rowe, an Oneonta SFCU customer, said he and many others in Oneonta were affected. Rowe said he didn't use a Walton ATM and said he doesn't believe the activity is confined to Walton, as SFCU officials told him when he called to deactivate his card. 

Rowe said he checked his account Aug. 31 and saw two withdrawals for $80 each, from Manhattan, were taken from his account. He deactivated his card and tried going to the locations on Market and Oneida streets, where he said both parking lots were completely full and there were 30 to 50 people inside each bank.

"As soon as I walked in, I realized I wasn't the only one this happened to," he said.

There are about 52,000 total members across SFCU's 11 locations and shared service centers, Reynolds said. As of Tuesday around 3 p.m., he said that SFCU had only recently begun to see cases in Oneonta. At that time, he stated the incident was mainly isolated to the Walton area but acknowledged that cases were coming up in Oneonta.

Just before 6 p.m., Reynolds said to The Daily Star in an email that SFCU is still trying to determine the number of customers affected in Oneonta but that it seems to be around 100 to 200 members. 

Walton police could not be immediately reached for comment about the investigation. State police are assisting with the investigation, said Aga Dembinska, Troop C public information officer. Reynolds said SFCU is continuing to respond to customer concerns, reissuing cards and refunding money to affected customers.

The bank's Facebook page posted that its call center, Walton and Oneonta Branches extended their lobby hours until 7 p.m. Tuesday to help members affected by the attack. Lobby hours for the Walton branch and Oneonta branches will begin at 8 a.m. Wednesday, according to the post.

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

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