Investigators say scammers are taking credit card theft to the next step.
Postal inspectors say it is happening across the nation, and it starts with stolen credit card numbers.
"We believe it was through either an online chat room where they purchased these credit card numbers or an employee at a local merchant," said David Gealey, U.S. Postal Inspector.
The next step--con artists go to a store that sells gift cards. They grab several worth $500 each. At the checkout counter, they come up with a phony reason why their credit card can't be swiped.
"They tell the clerk something must have happened to my card. 'It's damaged, my dog chewed on it' whatever it may be," said Gealey. "They would get the clerk to manually put the card number into the system. Once they did that the transaction was completed."
With the gift cards in hand, the scammers make a phone call transferring the money on those gift cards to a prepaid debit card.
"Once they transfer those funds, they are as good as cash to them," said Gealey. "They can go to any merchant or a bank and obtain cash. In 5 - 10 minutes they obtain $2500 in cash."
Investigators were able to learn the intricacies of the scam through surveillance video.
"They would never actually give them the card to the clerk when they actually asked for it," Gealey said. "'Oh here, I'll just read you the number.' They would cup the card, and the clerk is just punching in the numbers."
Once they discovered the scheme, inspectors were able to cross-check the time of the transactions with cell phone records and credit card statements to nab the scammers.
Investigators say very few victims in this case even knew their credit card numbers had been compromised.
This is exactly why you want to check out your credit card statements. Watch for any suspicious activity and report it.
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