DA’s probe security breach at ABC stores

Published 8:25 am Tuesday, July 9, 2013

There was a time when ABC meant “Always Bring Cash” when referring to making a purchase at an state Alcoholic Beverage Control store.

But nowdays in this era of debit cards and credit cards it seems you can add your favorite plastic to the mix.

But if you decide to go the swipe-route, then “caveat emptor”.

That’s Latin for “Let the buyer beware”.

The Financial Crimes Initiative, a program of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, has been made aware recently that there are reports of several ABC stores across the state that have experienced a breach of customer financial information for some customers using debit cards and/or credit cards in ABC stores.

While they are investigating these claims, the affected ABC systems are putting enhanced security systems in place designed to address these security issues.

A check by this newspaper with the local ABC stores in the Roanoke-Chowan area found that, so far, no security breaches have occurred here.

“I’ve heard about it, but as far as I know, no one in our part of the stae has been affected,” said Hertford County ABC director, Clarence Jordan.

“Only about 25 percent of our customers pay using debit or credit cards,” he added.

In NorthamptonCounty, which has four ABC stores, only the one in the town of Gaston even accepts credit or debit card payments. The ones in Jackson, Rich Square, and Conway do not.

In Bertie and Gates counties, where there is but one ABC store in the entire county, there have been no breaches reported either.

“None that I’m aware of,” said Bertie County director Clinton Freeman.

Hertford County’s Jordan referred this newspaper to Agnes Stevens, a public relations spokesperson with the NC ABC Commission, and she expanded on the reports.

“Based on the information that we have, only a handful of stores have reported anything of this sort,” she said in a telephone interview. “Any breaches that we are aware of have been referred to local law enforcement.”

“Two reports have been made in Dare County,” she added. “But of the 420 ABC stores across the state, all other reports have been in the Triad and other points west. Other stores have not had this problem.”

In all of the cases where there have been reports of security breaches, it’s also been noted that the stores are served by the same vendor handling credit and debit card transactions.

“The state ABC does not solicit vendors for its stores, nor are we vendors,” said Stevens.

As a precaution, ABC store patrons who may have concerns are encouraged to review their accounts and to consider what one can also “bank on”: using cash when making any ABC store purchases.