ATLANTA - Credit card fraud has taken a high-tech twist. Thieves using Bluetooth and other wireless technology can skim personal information from a credit card without the owner’s knowledge.
Channel 2's Tom Regan found out the technology to skim credit cards is easy to buy.
In the split second it takes to swipe a credit card, criminals can copy, clone an account and take off on a spending spree. A Cobb County man said he was a victim, and the thief racked up $80,000 in charges in one month.
"Every day I was in a panic about what he was going to do next. I would get random calls from different companies saying there was a new account opened," Art Zeigler told Regan.
The suspect in that case was arrested at a casino driving a jaguar rented with a counterfeit card in Zeigler's name.
"The guy purchased all kinds of stuff. He purchased fur coats, Xboxs, jewelry, diamonds, clothing. He had his teeth whitened. The list goes on and on. They found all kinds of stuff in his truck for Christmas presents," said Zeigler.
Identify thieves often use equipment they purchase legally online. Regan was able to purchase skimming equipment online with no questions asked.
Waiters and other employees who process transactions can use small skimming devices to secretly copy a card's magnetic strip.
"This is a phone with a card reader built in," Sgt. Paul Cooper of Atlanta Police Department told Regan. "To capture stolen card information, it was again used by a restaurant server."
Atlanta police told Regan that in recent months they have made several arrests of food servers stealing credit and debit information with card skimmers.
Crooks also rig skimming devices on ATMs along with hidden cameras to record pin numbers. After skimming the cards, the magnetic strip information is transferred using an encoding device.
Regan bought one online for about $200. Someone with little technical know-how can use a computer to copy account information to a counterfeit card.
Police recently arrested a metro Atlanta teen after he attempted to buy electronics with fraudulent gift cards. He admitted loading cards with credit card numbers he bought online. Regan went to his home to talk to him after the incident.
"I did this because I had no income, if I had a job I wouldn't be doing this stuff," said the teen. "I'm not stealing from people. You know, these are billionaire bankers, I mean."
Atlanta is one of the top cities for identity theft and credit card fraud.
"This is basically a one stop shop credit card fraud plant," said Secret Service agent Micheal Sweazey.
Sweazey showed Regan a room full of equipment recently seized from the basement of a metro Atlanta home.
"They do everything from the fraudulent ID's to manufacturing credit cards and encoding the information on back of the credit cards," said Sweazey.
"You know someone has your personal information. They attack you. You feel helpless. There's nothing much you can do," Zeigler.
John Ramsey a cybercrime security expert with Dell Secure Works, a company that protects banks and other businesses from credit card fraud sat down with Channel 2 Action News.
"There is a very vibrant community of people who steal credit card numbers and sell credit card numbers," said Ramsey.
Ramsey said there is a large underground marketplace for stolen credit card numbers. They are called card dumps.
"This particular site, Carder Forum, is selling credit card numbers themselves. Put them in batches, post them online and bid them out," said Ramsey.
Many of those numbers were stolen by way of skimming.
The Secret Service investigates credit card fraud. Sweazey showed Regan some of the tools of the trade, including phony card slots that were attached to ATMs to copy credit card numbers.
"Now they are set up with Bluetooth technology, so now they can sit within range of that, pick it up and bring it directly to their computer without having to return to the skimmer," said Sweazey.
Experts advise that if you are at an ATM and the card slot looks suspicious, do not use the ATM. Avoid letting your credit card out of sight when you use them and regularly check your account statements.