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Fraud hits home in Scappoose

Stacy Fink doesn't know how or where it happened. She simply knows that money was unwittingly used from her bank account at two stores on the East Coast.

Not knowing exactly what happened is a worrisome feeling for the Scappoose woman, a victim of debit card fraud, who says she now wants to get the word out about fraudulent billings so others don't feel like her: blindsided.

'It's not just my money,' Fink said.

Hers is an all-too-common story: Fink discovered the fraudulent activity after she realized her account was overdrawn on a Friday.

While on the phone to the bank to check her account balance, Fink was notified that her card had been used in Pennsylvania and Maryland, two places she'd never been.

The charges amounted to $54.94 and $105.44, pending transactions that forced her bank account to overdraw. She spent the weekend without access to money.

Fink immediately felt violated by the news. She had always believed she was safe because she'd never used her card online and had never written down the numbers for anyone to see.

But that doesn't matter, law enforcement officials say.

Debit card fraud is nothing new to Scappoose Chief of Police Doug Greisen, who himself fell victim to scammers two years ago. Cases sporadically come to light, he said, but they're usually resolved by a banking institution.

'The bank ultimately becomes the victim,' Greisen said, adding that most banks will refund at least some of the user's money. 'And then the bank has to file a report.' Because of its prevalence, fraud is costly for both financial institutions and card holders.

Card fraud costs the U.S. banking industry about $8.6 billion annually, according to Aite Group, which provides financial research and consulting.

And though Javelin Strategy and Research, another financial consulting firm, reported earlier in the year that card fraud had actually declined in 2010, the average cost to consumers jumped by 63 percent per incident.

For Fink, her bank refunded her money and closed access to the card. Her feeling of being violated persists.

'Case closed, the money went back to my account, I guess,' Fink said 'But at this point, I still don't know at what point my numbers were taken.'