LOWER ALLEN TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) – Police want to warn you thieves are targeting the Central Pennsylvania area, trying to get your credit card information, and then using it to buy and sell gift cards.
Many of the criminals come from out of state, often Florida, and travel up and down the Northeast.
“You can call it a credit card ring. You can call it a criminal enterprise,” said Capt. Leon Crone, with the Lower Allen Township Police Department.
Criminals can get and use your credit card information with a swipe of a card.
“We have offenders that are bringing stacks of credit card blanks or stolen credit cards with other victim’s credit card information imbedded in the magstripe,” Crone said. “They’re going into places like Wal-Mart or Target and buy gift cards or i-Tunes cards.”
The most recent case was on Wednesday at the Wal-Mart in Camp Hill. Police busted Christopher Miller, of Maryland, and found out during the arrest he’s wanted for homicide charges in Baltimore County.
This all affects your bottom line.
“It starts costing us, the consumers, more and more things for like credit card services or the goods and services that you purchase at the stores,” Crone said.
Police say the victim’s information is often stolen with a skimming device. Recent data breaches are also to blame. Police have three tips to avoid becoming a victim.
“You’re seeing who you’re handing it to, it’s going to that person, it’s getting swiped somewhere, and it’s coming back to you,” Crone said.
The second tip is to watch your credit card statements for any fraudulent activity and immediately report it to your credit card company and police.
“When you’re doing your online shopping, I’d advise against saving a credit card there,” Crone said. “Enter it new every time so it’s not stored in as many databases.”
Lower Allen Township Police recently bought a magstripe reader to track down victims. Their information is often embedded in the magnetic stripe with another person’s name on the credit card.
“Officers can take the suspected stolen credit card or cards that have suspected stolen data on them, swipe them, and the data will come up on the screen,” Crone said.
Crone says a few hundred dollars worth of gift cards are stolen in most cases, but their biggest theft was $4,000 in April.
“It’s on the verge of becoming an epidemic,” Crone said. “It’s certainly a nuisance, and it’s certainly on the rise. As more and more of these happen, the criminals seen to get more bolder and go with larger amounts.”
The people committing the crimes are normally not the masterminds but those doing leg work for the people running the ring, according to police.
Hampden Township Police also say this is happening in their area.