SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – A criminal group operating in the South makes large purchases with stolen credit cards, then hires unsuspecting people online to transport the goods, according to the FBI’s Charlotte Division.
So far this year, the group has used stolen credit cards to make purchases at more than 100 businesses in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, West Virginia and Kentucky, said Shelley Lynch, public affairs specialist at the FBI Charlotte. Division.
“The main red flag is that they call on the phone and just give a credit card number. So since companies don’t see these people in person and they can’t verify that this credit card belongs to this person by checking that ID,” she said.
Under the scheme, tire stores, furniture stores, lumber companies, trailer companies and appliance stores were defrauded of hundreds of thousands of dollars, she said.
“They post job boards online and hire people to go to those companies, pick up those large purchases, sometimes transfer them to other states, and then pay them with a cash app. And the people driving and picking up these items don’t even know they picked up items that weren’t paid for properly and legally,” she said.
Before the credit card transaction is flagged as fraudulent, the group pays someone to collect it and take it to another state to resell it, she said.
Days later, the victimized businesses learn that the sales were fraudulent, she said.
“In each case, we believe the same group of criminals are using stolen credit cards. They make phone calls to different types of businesses that usually sell as bulky items, so high priced items. And they’ll make a major purchase and then hire someone to pick up that purchase before the companies realize the credit card numbers have been stolen,” Lynch said.
The FBI says thieves hire people to transport stolen goods across state lines with large utility trailers and trucks.
In addition to targeted businesses, individuals who have their credit card numbers stolen see large purchases on their bills. Typically, they can work with their own credit card company to reverse this trend, she said.
Another red flag, according to Lynch, is that if someone tries to hire you for a transportation job that seems too good to be true or weird, it could be the criminal gang, she said.
“Some of the things that are kinda weird about [the transportation] jobs, job offer [posted by thieves] specifically, is that they are asking these people to go and rent a box truck so they can pick up a big shipment of items,” she said. “They’re asking them in some cases to use their own vehicles, and so that’s another kind of red flag that it doesn’t seem like it’s necessarily legitimate work.”
The FBI warns companies against the scheme because, at this point, it has already been seen more than 100 times in eight states in just a few months, she said.
The FBI Charlotte is working with several local law enforcement agencies on the investigation. Companies with similar unsolved crimes should call the FBI Charlotte at 704-672-6100 or file an online complaint at tips.fbi.gov.