12/06/2011 03:03 pm ET | Updated Dec 06, 2011

Lucky Supermarket Identity Theft Ring Leads Company To Urge Customers To Close Accounts

If you've shopped at a Bay Area Lucky supermarket in the past few months, you might want to strongly consider closing your bank account--or, at the very least, changing a few of your passwords.

That's the word coming from the Modesto-based grocery chain, which admits over 100 people who used the self-checkout counters in 23 of their northern California Lucky stores (and one SaveMart) have been the victims of identity theft.

While Lucky now insists that the machines at all of its over 200 locations are now safe, the company is urging customers who used self-checkout at any of the compromised locations in October or November to immediately close their bank accounts or else risk having their identities stolen.

The company first discovered the plot when routine maintenance at 19 locations turned up suspicious devices attached to the self-service scanners. Purchases made at cashier-assisted lanes were not affected.

The thieves used credit card "skimmers" attached to the terminals to collect the account numbers and PIN codes of everyone who used them to pay for their groceries.

Given how common identity theft has become, this attack on Lucky store customers comes at no surprise. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were 721,418 fraud-relatd complaints to the Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) in 2009 alone, and that number is likely higher today. These numbers of fraud complaints are only going to go up as more and more people go digital.

Nearly 80 percent of the victims identified thus far have been store employees.

The company put out a press release in late November advising customers at the affected stores to monitor their accounts; however, at the time, Lucky had not confirmed that any customers' accounts had actually been compromised. Now, as the full scale of the fraud has been revealed, the company is advising its customers to take stronger action to protect themselves.

"Usually businesses advise customers to remain alert and monitor their accounts," notes online security website "For a chain to advise canceling accounts is a bit unusual."

Lucky is asking all of its customers who discover suspicious activity on their credit or debit card accounts to contact its customer support line at (800) 692-5710. The company is working with local law enforcement agencies and the Secret Service, the primary federal agency investigating identity theft, to locate the culprits.

Gubstreet provides this handy list of all the affected stores:

815 Marina Village Parkway, Alameda
6843 Mission St., Daly City
1000 El Cerrito Plaza, El Cerrito
5000 Mowry Ave., Fremont
35820 Fremont Blvd., Fremont
919 Edgewater Blvd., Foster City
25151 Santa Clara St., Hayward
45 Murchison Drive, Millbrae
1350 S Park Victoria Dr., Milpitas
715 E El Camino Real, Mountain View
1761 Grant Ave., Novato
939 Lakeville Highway, Petaluma
1530 Fitzgerald Drive, Pinole
200 Woodside Plaza, Redwood City
1133 Old County Rd., San Carlos
234 Saratoga Ave., Santa Clara
5510 Monterey Highway, San Jose
200 El Paseo De Saratoga, San Jose
844 Blossom Hill Rd., San Jose
3270 South White Rd., San Jose
1515 Sloat Blvd., San Francisco
484 N Mathilda Ave., Sunnyvale
32300 Dyer St., Union City
SaveMart, 1465 Main St., Watsonville