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View From a Cop: Recent Arrests Reveal Tricks of Credit Card Thieves

Following this week's arrests, Sandy Springs Police Lt. Steve Rose wants folks to know how crooks use skimmers in credit card fraud.

 

My wife can call me on her cell phone, which bounces a signal up to a satellite and then down to the basement where I am. That way, I will know that she doesn’t feel like cooking dinner and I need to go get pizza.

All that personal information that we transition all over the place has to be stored. Much of it ends up on a magnetic strip on your credit or debit card. It allows the merchant to take funds from your account and move it into theirs. That’s okay with us because it’s seamless and simple.

It isn’t long until the crooks tap into that technology and begin till tapping, utilizing the same technology.

This past week, two people were arrested in Sandy Springs for using credit card skimmers to capture information and then re-wrote that information onto blank “Green Dot” Visa Gift Cards, and then used the cards to make purchases.

The case came to light when a restaurant server, already suspected of using customer’s credit card numbers, was observed removing a small, portable skimmer, from her pocket and it’s believed that she was going to swipe a customer’s credit card on it.

The skimmer was later taken from the server and information later revealed that almost thirty credit card numbers had been illegally swiped, capturing their information.

Almost a week later, a search warrant was executed at an apartment and three large commercial-grade credit card readers and writers, along with dozens of blank “Green Dot” cards were recovered.

The credit card reader captures the information and the writer writes it to a blank gift card, in this case, the “Green Dot” cards.

Two people are charged with multiple Financial Identity Fraud counts, with more charges to come following more investigation into their past. One group of customers each had their cards swiped and each later received fraudulent credit card charges at a metro area Target Store.

It seems that we stay one step behind the crooks, at least for a while, until they make a mistake. Then we learn a lot, including how easy it is to pull and capture your information from a credit card. Many people believe that shopping online is a high-risk endeavor but many law-enforcement professionals, including prosecutors who deal with identity-theft prosecution, believe the opposite. Many say the vast majority of cases involve someone physically skimming or otherwise fraudulently obtaining your credit card information, come from retail stores. In most cases, the employee leaves the customer’s immediate presence.

Prevention

Obviously the best prevention is to not allow the card to leave your presence. If a retail-store employee tells you he or she needs to go to another counter to run the card, if possible, follow them. In most restaurants, the server leaves the table to run the card. For that setting, you may wish to use cash.

Read your receipts and statements closely. Compare the receipts to the statements in detail. Some thieves take out small amounts in hopes that you won’t notice. 

If you are victimized, report it swiftly. Federal law caps your liability at fifty dollars. Most credit cards go a step further and not charge you at all—again, if you report quickly. If your debit card information is captured, notify your bank quickly. Chances are that you won’t lose any funds if you report it in a timely manner.

Review Your Credit Report

Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax are the three main credit reporting agencies.  You may want to contact them and request a credit freeze, which prevents new credit authorizations without your consent. You are entitled to one free credit report each year from the above three reporting agencies. You may wish to look at www.annualcreditreport.com. Keep your eyes out on anything in the report that doesn’t add up. For instance, if a car dealership looked at your report but you didn’t go there, that may be a sign that someone with your information did go there. Keep that information for the police if you discover that your information was fraudulently obtained.

The basics are this: Educate yourself on identity theft and how thieves obtain your personal information. Check your credit report at least annually and don’t just toss those card statements but rather read them. Look for anything that you aren’t sure of. Don’t assume it is nothing. Look into it. Keep yourself informed.

JC Rogers February 17, 2012 at 11:39 PM
The first part of your article is categorically false. No information relating to your cell phone call is stored on your magnetic stripe of your credit or debit card. The implication is totally deceptive. Please be more responsible with future articles to insure accuracy.
Going Postal in H-Town April 27, 2012 at 02:38 PM
JC, where the hell did you make the connection between using the phone and the credit card mag strips? He sure didn't make one. Read it again, maybe you should try to be more responsible with future comments to insure accuracy.

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