Identity thieves attacked PIN pad devices at 10 Barnes & Noble book stores in South Florida and the FBI has been called in to investigate the security breach, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Banks and credit card companies have also been warned, said Barnes & Noble spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating.
As a precaution, the company said customers who swiped their cards at the 10 stores should change their debit card PIN numbers and see if there have been unauthorized purchases made on their credit cards. The breach was discovered last month and all the PIN pad devices were disconnected Sept. 14 to eliminate the intrusion.
The stores in South Florida include the two in Pembroke Pines and ones in Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach Gardens, Boynton Beach, West Palm Beach, Aventura, Coral Gables, South Miami and the Kendall area.
The attack was part of a larger effort to steal credit card and debit card information from 63 of the chain's shops in Florida, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, according to a Barnes & Noble statement.
"We are not commenting beyond the release as there is an ongoing FBI investigation underway," she wrote in an e-mail to the Sun Sentinel.
In an earlier statement, the chain of book stores called the attack a "sophisticated criminal effort."
"The criminals planted bugs in the tampered PIN devises, allowing for the capture of credit card and PIN numbers," according to Barnes & Noble.
When discovered, the company immediately disconnected the PIN pads at all its 700 stores nationwide.
South Florida has the highst rate of identity theft of any major metro area in the nation. Last month, a federal agency reported that the entire state has the highest rate of stolen identity tax refund fraud in the nation. Some 40 South Floridians were charged earlier this month with stealing identities to file false federal income tax returns to get refunds. Many were from Broward.
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