Maryland Police Search For Two Women Accused Of Stealing $8,500 in Eight Minutes In Identity Theft

CreditCardFraudSuspects-781fd07cPolice are looking for these two women who used the stolen credit cards of another woman to rack up more than $8,500 in gift cards in eight minutes in Rockville, Maryland. The women casually went into a Target store and allegedly spent thousands before strolling out of the store. However, this time the police say that they have very good pictures of the culprits.

The victim was at dinner with her husband when she received a text alerting her to a big purchase. Then a few seconds later she got another one. It was only then that she discovered that her wallet was missing. Police say that the two women charged $4,000 to a Visa card, $4,000 to an American Express card and $530.05 to a MasterCard.

150px-Target_logo.svgThe speed and amount of the crime would indicate experienced thieves who do this as a regular job. However, it is fascinating that it appears to be the victim not the store that alerted police. Stores like Target must realize that anyone buying thousands of dollars of goods in less than ten minutes is likely to be an identity thief. Yet, there appears to be a lack of incentive for stores like Target to take action. After all, it is the credit card companies and holder, not the store, on the hook for the purchase. Indeed, Target just moved thousands of dollars of products. My guess is that, in the short time between the wallet theft and the purchase, the women had no time to create fake ids to match the cards. If they did, they would not likely stand up to close examination. The question is whether Target took any action to confirm the identification when faced with such a suspicious series of fast transactions. Identity thieves are also being helped out by stores moving to automated self-check out lines. I do not know what actions Target took in this case, but Congress would do customers a service by looking into the incentives and disincentives of major stores in identifying identity thieves.

24 thoughts on “Maryland Police Search For Two Women Accused Of Stealing $8,500 in Eight Minutes In Identity Theft”

  1. Nick Spinelli, you were curious about what I could say regarding Target Loss Prevention and the Barbie theft. Here’s what I’ve got to say:

    Target LP is well known for its forensics lab, and what little I’ve seen in for example, trade publications, suggests they spend a tremendous amount of money on it. It definitely gives them a sort of prestige no company I ever worked for has. On the other hand they are known for mediocre wages and salary for their LP personnel, poor prospects for promotion, and vicious political infighting.

    Loss Prevention remains one of the few places in life one can break into mid- level management without a college degree – although it becomes harder and harder each year. Target, I am told, will simply not hire anyone for a salaried position in LP who doesn’t have a degree. (For the record I am both a high school and college dropout. The former because I was forced to leave home at 16, the second for many reasons – although the cost loomed largest in my mind at the time.) The thing about requiring degrees for LP management, especially low to mid-level management, is that it creates a really striking stratification. Where the agents are poorly paid, face regular risks to their health and safety – and have to make split second decisions that carry a number of potential legal and work-related ramifications. The managers however, have little or no experience dealing with these risks nor making these decisions – but like people everywhere are more than happy to second-guess everything after the fact – usually with an extremely risk-averse approach.

    I started my career chasing (and all too often fighting with) shoplifters and other problem makers in some pretty tough markets. This gave me a deep understanding of what my agents faced, and is why I often argued on their behalf with my own supervisors. What you get without that shared experience is, in my opinion, a deeply unethical system where Loss Prevention executives set goals and policies that require street level agents to constantly be risking not only their safety, but their jobs; and the low level managers are more than happy to terminate an agent rather than argue in their favor.

    Target is probably one of the worst offenders when it comes to this – according to the LP grapevine. Meanwhile I question the overall utility of their forensic program. Their shrink numbers aren’t that much better than their peers, unless I’ve been lied to; and their big cases don’t seem especially different or more common than big cases coming out of other big box stores. In their favor, their overwhelming use of video surveillance is a huge help in prosecution. Myself coming from companies that had little or no video available, I can tell you that most of the DAs we worked with were dismayed at how rarely we had video of the crime. (Not that property crime against big corporations is prosecuted very often where I live and work.)

    The Barbie story is an extreme example of something I saw countless times in my career. One of the things I always taught my agents was that any sort of emergency we dealt with, one agent needed to take the lead, and the others needed to focus elsewhere. A person falling down, in a retail establishment, for example, calls for a variety of actions, from ensuring they’re okay, to documenting the cause or possible causes, to perhaps calling for an ambulance. (And always paperwork of course!) Because of this, I wanted my people especially alert for theft during these situations. It takes extra effort for LP personnel sometimes, they have a tendency to run toward problems, to want to be involved; I had to change their instinct and make them look elsewhere. This is about all you can do with situations like this. A medical emergency doesn’t require every staff member to stand around watching. Management needs to break up the cluster, get people back to servicing customers and their other duties. Further, acting this way generally breaks up the cluster of customers as well – which can save a truly injured person from unnecessary embarrassment.

  2. I do like Darren’s idea of a PIN number for charges. The number is currently printed on the back of the card, which is great for on-line stuff, but not charging in a store.

  3. The first woman could have been a man, looked like one to me. In a store that sells lots of expensive things (TV’s, mobile phones, sound systems, etc.) $4,000 would be easy, but they didn’t have anything that big walking out. Maybe there was a pickup location. We get a call whenever a card is used outside our local area. It’s a good way to catch them. If we say we aren’t in Texas charging today, the next request wouldn’t be approved.

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