A suburban mother of four says she was scammed out of her reward program at Kohl’s department store. While it wasn’t a lot of money and the case is not likely to get prosecuted or resolved, she is concerned about what other information the thieves stole. And she says the store itself isn’t helping her solve the Kohl’s Cash Caper.
The Lake County woman is so scared her cyber world has been penetrated, she only wants to be known to as “Michelle.”
"I really felt violated in my own home,” she said. “I felt like someone had been in my home and had seen anything and everything. … I don't feel safe."
It all started with the Kohl's Cash program. Kohl's department store customers spend $50 and get $10 back to spend online or in the store.
Michelle, who along with her husband, are raising four kids ages 7 and under, had accumulated $70 in Kohl's Cash recently. But when she went online to cash it in, it was gone. Her 27 digit number and the value had been stolen and used.
"I don't care about $70 Kohl's Cash,” she says. “I care that my information was violated in some way. Kohl's could help me trace the source of the hack but they’re just letting them get away with it.”
Bill Kresse, also known as “Professor Fraud” at Governors State University, monitors crimes like this all over the world. He says in 2014 a New Jersey man stole a half million dollars worth of Kohl's Cash. He was a computer engineer.
In another case a digital thief hacked Kohl's customers’ accounts and shipped merchandise to their doors. Then, while they were distracted with those mystery deliveries, he would redeem the Kohl's Cash those customers had earned.
Scams like these are only growing as technology grows. So far in 2016, there has been $6.7 billion in e-commerce fraud.
"You’ve got a customer who feels threatened because of this and ho feels violated,” says Kresse. “So there is a lot more to it than just the dollar amount."
Michelle is afraid about what the digital scammer may know about her. She's turned the case over to the Lake County Sheriff's Department who tells WGN News that detectives are investigating.
Kresses says this is the right thing to do, no matter how small the damage.
The case is unlikely to be prosecuted because of its size.
But Michelle isn't giving up. She says she got a customer service agent at Kohl's to give her the order number tied to her Kohl's Cash redeemed by a crook in September. She plugged it in on the company's own website and the theif’s name came up. Now she wants kohl's to do something about it.
They reimbursed her the $70, but she's worried about the bigger picture; Her identity, her bank accounts and her credit cards. What else could he know about Michelle or decide to use against her?
So what can you do?
Kresse says monitor your accounts regularly, not just Kohl's but all your banking, credit cards and rewards programs. Use complex passwords and change them quarterly. And call on law enforcement and file a report when it gets to that point.
"Honestly, the source of the hack, the answer to who hacked us it lies with Kohl's cooperating and they will not cooperate,” Michelle says. "This is why they do it, because they don't get caught.”
Michelle did everything right. She uncovered the crime quickly, reported it to the store and to law enforcement. She looked into it herself and documented everything. And since all this, she's changed all her passwords and scrubbed her computer.
Detectives claim, if there are leads to follow they will do it.
But what is Kohl's doing about it? Michelle would like to know. WGN News reached out to Kohl's by email and phone but they have not responded.