Identity Theft

Club Owner Allegedly Used Stolen Credit Cards to Stock Up on Booze

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A New Jersey nightclub owner allegedly devised a credit-card-skimming scheme in order to stock his club’s bar.

Kenny Frias, 43, is accused of skimming cards at gas stations in four cities, making fake cards with the stolen data and going on a booze-buying binge at various New Jersey liquor stores. Prosecutors believe he then sold the alcohol at the Phebe Night Club and Restaurant in Jersey City where he’s an owner, according to a report from CBS New York.

The scheme is a little bizarre. Prosecutors say Frias supplied gas station attendants with remote credit card scanners (you can’t pump your own gas in New Jersey), which allowed him to steal patrons’ credit card information.

It’s unclear why a nightclub owner was giving gas station workers credit card machines, but that’s apparently what happened. Authorities found a credit card reading-and-writing device, fake credit cards, a fake ID and more than $75,000 in cash when they searched Frias’ home and work. He has been charged with fraudulent use of a credit card, money laundering and trafficking in the personal identification of another.

Credit card skimming at gas stations has become increasingly common, and over the years, fraud experts have advised consumers to look at the card reader for signs of tampering or added devices before swiping their cards. Of course, people fueling up in New Jersey and Oregon can’t really do that, because it’s illegal to pump your own gas in those states.

There are a lot of times consumers don’t see exactly what happens to their credit card when they pay for something (at restaurants, for example), and even when you do, there’s the threat of data breaches and other attempts at stealing your info that are difficult to prevent. Other than using cash, the best thing you can do to deal with fraud is check your account activity regularly. If an unfamiliar transaction pops up when you’re checking your online bank statements, you can quickly address the suspicious purchase and cancel the cards, if necessary.

Another way to monitor for fraud: Check your credit scores (which you can do for free on Credit.com). If your credit score changes unexpectedly, it could be a sign someone stole your information and used it to obtain credit without your permission.

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Image: Alexey Lysenko

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