CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Fake credit cards hidden inside shoes, briefcases, and stashed away in cars.
The thieves make the cards themselves, then use a credit card scanning device to steal your credit card information from the magnetic strip on the back of your card.
Here's how it works: They transfer your information onto the fake card, they purchase gift cards and guess what -- there's no way to track it.
It's a crime that experts say is increasing in our area.
"It's kind of creepy," said one victim who asked to not be identified.
Surveillance photos taken of a suspect at a Lowe's on Euclid Avenue. Willoughby Police say the man was involved in cloned credit card scams, meaning the victims' cards were never physically taken from them, but their card information was.
Detectives say they've received several reported cases over the past year of victims' cards being used to purchase thousands of dollars worth of gift cards.
"They must have walked right past me, scanned my wallet or rear side. They got my debit card information," said the victim.
The Cleveland man says he and his wife were in the Lowe's just two days before store security captured the suspect using his credit card info, charging nearly $200. He's now warning others about the crime.
"At the end of the day it could be $5,000. They could have debited, made that transaction when I had to pay my mortgage and I could have gotten hit with bank fees," said the victim.
His story all too common. The Cleveland man was able to spot the crime by looking at his bank statement. He canceled the card, and filed a police report.
Detectives say the suspect in his case had the credit card information of two other victims, buying $1,000 worth of gift cards.
"We've seen cases where these criminals will go in and buy up to $10,000 worth of gift cards," explained Matt Neely of Secure State.
Matt Neely is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Secure State. The Cleveland company works with other businesses, specializing in information security that includes breaches and leaked information.
Neely says they've notice a spike in the fraud over the last couple months, with primarily smaller businesses contacting them about the crime.
"Groups will go in and basically hit different stores in the area and they find out this chain doesn't check. Then they go to different locations and pull the same scam," said Neely.
Neely said many of the bigger stores have stepped up their security measures by using the credit card chip and pin. Other stores are stopping credit card use for gift cards altogether, only allowing cash or a debit cards with a pin number.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
Neely said don't use credit cards linked to your bank account. That way you have a better chance of thieves not wiping out that account.
Always check your credit card statements and look out for skimmers, gadgets theives install at places like gas station pumps, that can take your credit info.
"If a credit card is stolen, you're only legally liable for $200, and most credit card companies will wave that," said Neely.
This Cleveland victim's bank credited his account. But that's not before his account was frozen for several days, and he spent several hours trying to deal with the situation.
"I would recommend everybody get hip with technology today, and what kind of security feature and security policies that your banks and credit card companies have in place," said the victim.
The suspect in the Cleveland victim's case has not been arrested.
There are shields and even special wallets that have Radio Frequency Identification devices that can make it more difficult for thieves to steal your credit card information.
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