Thousands of Hernando County library cards compromised by skimmer in Book It pizza scam

skimmers

By Frank Fencil | frank.fencil@springhillcourier.com

BROOKSVILLE, Florida — Hernando County authorities have made more than two dozen arrests in what they say was an elaborate ring of library card skimmers used to earn free pizzas through the Book It program.

The group installed more than a dozen skimmers at branches throughout the county, collecting more than 10,000 card numbers, sheriff’s spokesman Dale Hutchinson said.

What’s more, authorities found they bilked Pizza Hut into giving away an estimated 1,200 free pizzas to what the gourmet Italian restaurant believed to be elementary-aged bookworms. Instead, they were allowing a gang of high-tech cyber thugs to live high off the hog for more than six months, authorities said.

Book It is a program that allows schools to set up reading criteria for kindergarten through sixth grade and reward certain goals with vouchers for free one-topping personal pan pizzas. The skimmers were collecting card numbers, routing book numbers to those accounts, printing out audits from the county’s mainframe and forging teachers’ signatures on the forms so that they would appear authentic when presented to a Pizza Hut shift manager on duty.

“These guys were organized, motivated and greedy, but it is our belief that the investigation shows they did not read a single one of these books,” Hutchinson said. “They were taking food from the mouths of our most literate children.”

The sheriff’s office is encouraging anyone with a Hernando County library card to call and cancel it immediately.

Frank Fencil

Frank Fencil is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades' experience. He has uncovered government corruption, toppled dirty police forces and covered two foreign wars as an international correspondent. He chose to return to his native Spring Hill in hopes of giving his hometown the quality watchdog journalism it deserves.

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