Last Thursday, as my wife was driving home, she noticed a few police cars in front of a house in our neighborhood. She assumed it was another marijuana grow house bust (one was raided in our neighborhood last month). But the detective in charge of crimes in our neighborhood emailed our neighborhood mailing list and explained that it was actually a credit card fraud bust:
"Regarding the activity on Laurelcrest. The owner of the house (which has been vacant for approx 1 month) came home and found his locks were changed and somebody was inside the house. We went in and arrested the person inside. We found dozens of blank credit cards, a credit card embosser along with additional evidence."
I looked into this type of crime, and learned that it is quite lucrative for the criminals. They typically buy valid credit card numbers from Eastern European hackers who get them by breaking into databases on the Internet. Then they print up cards with the stolen numbers on them. The criminals sell the cards to other lowlifes who buy goods with them (often going back to the stores to return the items for cash). The bills get sent to the real owners of the credit cards, who have no idea that their card numbers were stolen.
Where do criminals get the equipment to make phony credit cards? They need look no further than eBay for some of it. A quick search there yielded a number of machines that will emboss cards as well as machines to read and write the magnetic stripes on the backs of cards.
In January, Wired produced a brief video (above) that shows how phony card rings do their dirty work.
Here's hoping my friendly neighborhood forgers have a Merry Chistmas in jail.