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Credit card fraud on the rise

By Ed Brock

Clayton County Police Detective Andre Jackson has no shortage of work these days.

He specializes in credit card fraud and identity theft cases, and today's new technology is making the criminals' work all the more easy.

"Most of the cases I'm handling right now are done over the Internet," Jackson said.

Jackson isn't the only law enforcement officer dealing with rising credit card/identity theft cases.

"There are a million and one ways to use not only a person's credit card number but all of their personal information," Henry County Police Lt. Ken Turner said.

It's a problem that crosses over county lines, with credit card owners in one county learning their account has been used in a crime in another county.

"When it happens in another jurisdiction where you don't live you have to go to that jurisdiction to make a report," said Fayetteville Police Lt. Beverly Trainor.

Because of the inconvenience and trouble the fraud has on the legitimate card holders and the economic impact, Trainor said it is far from being a victimless crime.

On Nov. 12 Fayetteville police arrested Latosha Annette Banks, 34, of College Park after she tried to buy six gift cards worth a total of $3,000 at the Home Depot there with a written credit card number for which she did not have authority to use. Banks has been charged with fraud, forgery and theft of a credit card, but Trainor said Banks told police she got the number from "some guy she knows."

Jackson said there are several ways criminals can obtain credit card numbers. A major problem he encounters is "swipers," servers at restaurants who use a special device to swipe credit cards and store their numbers.

"What they'll do is take those card numbers and buy all kinds of things on the Internet," Jackson said.

There are also Web sites where anybody can download "random number generator" programs that can be used to uncover credit card numbers, Jackson said.

Jackson said credit and debit card users should keep track of the last place they use their cards before unauthorized charges appear, and they should check their credit record every six months.

Turner said there's another thing that consumers should bear in mind when checking the receipts they get back from any business.

"If their entire credit card or debit card number is printed out on the receipt that is illegal in the state of Georgia," Turner said.

The Federal Trade Commission puts out a pamphlet called "ID Theft" that provides tips on detecting and avoiding credit card and identity theft. Copies of the pamphlet are available at www.ftc.gov.