SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – A criminal group operating in the South is making large purchases with stolen credit cards and then hiring unsuspecting people online to transport the merchandise, 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 Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, West Virginia, and Kentucky, said Shelley Lynch, public affairs specialist with FBI Charlotte Division.
“The main red flag of it is that they’re calling over the phone and just giving a credit card number. So since businesses are not seeing these people in person and they can’t verify that that credit card belongs to that person by verifying that I.D.,” she said.
In the scheme, tire stores, furniture stores, lumber companies, trailer businesses, and appliance stores have been scammed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, she said.
“They’re posting job sites online and they are hiring people to drive to these businesses, pick up these large purchases, sometimes transfer them to other states, and then they’re paying them with a cash app. And the people who are driving and picking these up, these items don’t even know that they have 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 pick it up and take it to another state to be resold, she said.
Days later, the victimized businesses learn the sales were fraudulent, she said.
“In each case, we believe the same group of criminals is using stolen credit cards. They’re calling over the phone to different types of businesses that typically will sell like large ticket items — so high ticket items. And they will make a large purchase and then hire someone to go pick up that purchase before the businesses realize that the credit card numbers are stolen,” said Lynch.
The thieves are hiring people to transport the stolen goods across state lines with large utility trailers and trucks.
In addition to businesses being targeted, individuals who have credit card numbers stolen are seeing large purchases on their bills. Typically, they can work with their own credit card company to get that reversed, she said.
Another red flag, according to Lynch, is if someone is trying to hire you for a transportation job that sounds too good to be true or strange, it could be a criminal group, she said.
“Some of the things that are kind of odd about [the transportation] jobs, the job ad [posted by thieves] specifically, is that they’re asking these folks to go and either rent a box truck so that they can go get a large shipment of items,” she said. “They’re asking them in some cases to use their own vehicles, and so that is another kind of red flag that it doesn’t seem like maybe it’s necessarily a legitimate job.”
The FBI is warning businesses about this scheme because, at this point, it’s already been seen more than a hundred times across eight states in just a few months, she said.
FBI Charlotte is working with several local law enforcement agencies on the investigation. Businesses with similar unsolved crimes should call, FBI Charlotte at 704-672-6100 or fill out a complaint online at tips.fbi.gov.