Roughly one in three Americans had their credit card information stolen in the past five years. If identity thieves get your card, they can ring up a huge shopping bill and it can take months to undo the damage.
Kevin Hawke, a former identity thief, told 11Alive's sister station KGW how he operated. After serving prison time he wants to give back to the community by sharing his secrets so you can avoid becoming a victim of credit card fraud.
KGW: How much money did you make from credit card fraud?
Kevin Hawke: “You can make thousands and thousands of dollars a day just by going into one or two stores and swiping a couple credit cards.”
Did the victims know you were ripping them off?
“I mean they would know about a week after we did the scam. A credit card would arrive at their residence in the mail and they would be like. ‘I didn’t apply for this!’ But by that time we’ve already drained the entire account.”
So, how did the scam work?
“We’d get somebody’s personal information. We call that a ‘profile’-- that’s their name, their address, their social security number, their phone number, their place of employment.”
Wait, how did you get that information?
“We could get an entire list of names and addresses and all that -- corrupt county workers, corrupt DMV workers, people that we paid off.”
Then you’d get a credit card in someone else’s name?
“We would go into high-end department stores and we would apply for in-store credit accounts. You can get $5,000 to $10,000 worth of instant credit and you don’t have to wait for that credit card to arrive at their house to start spending it.
We would drain the entire account in one day, then we would go and sell everything for cash.”
Who would you sell it to?
“We’d use what is called a ‘fence.’ You know, somebody who buys stolen goods and resells it, usually over the internet or sends it overseas.”
Was that the only way you’d get stolen credit cards?
“I had a bartender or a waitress or a waiter on my payroll -- somebody that I can pay a couple hundred dollars to every week. If they had what we call a ‘Big Fish’ -- somebody that comes in wearing fancy clothes, pulls up in a fancy car or looks like they have money -- you know when they pay their tab, the waitress or the bartender will take a quick picture of the front and back of their credit card.”
Then, they’d send you a photo of the credit card?
And you’d make a duplicate?
(Note: He explained in detail how to make a fake credit card but we’re not sharing that information so others don’t try it.) “And I will be holding an exact replica of your card that swipes to your account but you’ve still got your card in your wallet. You think everything is hunky dory.”
So how do you prevent that from happening?
“You need to protect your plastic. You don’t know what that person is doing with your card when they go to swipe it. I mean, you need to actually watch what they are doing.”
Any other ways to be on the lookout for credit card fraud?
“I mean, if it was me, I’d be checking my (credit card) statement almost every day to make sure there are no fraudulent charges because at least at that point you can do damage control and you can deactivate your card.”
How about fraud protection? Think that would help?
“If they have Life Lock protection or some type of identity theft protection, they will get alerted.”
Anything else people can do to protect themselves?
“Information is gold. You need to protect it at all costs. If your personal information is out there and available we could drain your whole account.”
So, give me an example. How would you get someone’s personal information?
“I mean, there have been situations where a dental office went out of business and they took all of their file cabinets with all of their records and financial statements and just dumped it into a dumpster, right out in the back.”
Again, thank you. Can you explain why you are willing share your story?
“I’ve done so much harm and damage through my actions. You know, this is just a way for me to tell them, listen, this is what is going on.”
Published May 9, 2017
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