A local franchise has been hit by hackers who stole and duplicated credit card numbers of customers, Altoona police said.
Police said Little Caesars Pizza, 226 E. Chestnut Ave., had its online credit and bank card system hacked and said malicious software was found on the store's computer, although it's not suspected a local employee is responsible.
"At this stage the investigation indicates there is not an in-store problem," said Altoona police Sgt. Benjamin Jones, who said it appears whoever stole the data did so over the Internet. While the store usually uses a separate credit card machine for transactions, there are times when cards are swiped at a computer and processed via the Internet, Jones said.
"It's more susceptible to fraud," Jones said, adding that a bank noticed a pattern of discrepancies and connected it to the store. Most customers, Jones said, have "been made whole" and police are in the process of contacting federal agencies to compare the case against any already open investigations.
Jones said 200 to 250 cards are involved although that doesn't mean all the cards were duplicated and sold on the black market. That is only the number of cards used at the Little Caesar's between Aug. 1 and the beginning of October. Most of the gleaned cards were used at the store in September, Jones added.
In all, police are aware of fraudulent cards being used in 26 states and two different countries, one in Africa and another in Asia. The total loss is estimated at $50,000.
Jones said should those responsible be traced to a foreign country, that would effectively end the case but for now police continue to look into the theft.
"The bad guys seem to be one step ahead of law enforcement because of technology," Jones said. Jones said Little Caesars has "bent over backward" to assist police. Locally, the two Altoona locations of the chain are owned by Richard Kane, who referred all questions about the theft to Little Caesars corporate offices. A call to Little Caesars corporate office was not returned.