Swipe, sign, go: Credit card shopping spree

Reported by Genevieve Barker - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The suffering economy is the perfect time for credit card thieves to prey on unsuspecting victims.

So how often, have you been able to swipe, sign, and go - never showing your ID?

To find out, Frances Weller gave her credit card to WECT producer, Peter Smelser.  Genevieve Barker followed as he went to a number of retailers in the Wilmington area to see if he could get away with using a credit card that did not belong to him.

Peter was able to rack up a bill of over $1,200 in merchandise to Fran's credit card.  He bought things like a Bluetooth, digital camera (plus the warranty), beach towels, a boogie board, an electric guitar, apparel, and a surfboard.

Peter went to four different stores in the area, and out of those stores, nobody seized the card and only one stopped him from spending.

First Peter went to Game Stop off Market Street in Wilmington to grab some new releases.  While he was checking out, the clerk asked Peter for ID to verify his proof of age.

But instead of doing something about the mis-matched credit card and ID, the clerk handed the credit card back to Peter, our "pseudo thief."

Peter ventured to Target to test his luck there.  He self-swiped through the reader at the register.  The clerk watched Peter as he signed his name - not Fran's - and household items, some clothes, and a boogie board were charged to the card.  The total: $313.89.

Next on the agenda was Radio Shack across the street.

"I was looking for a Bluetooth, but saw that digital camera," said Peter.

The clerk offered him a $60 warranty for the camera and began ringing in his items at the checkout register.  He was all set to go, but the clerk noticed the names didn't match on the credit card and ID.

Peter told the clerk that Frances was his roommate, so the clerk asked Peter to give him a call to verify his story.

That's when Peter called another male co-worker, who clearly wasn't Frances Weller, and handed his phone to the clerk.  Peter was able to cash out with a bag full of goodies.  Total: $232.77.

Next Peter wanted to buy something special for Fran's beach days.  He was able to buy a $600 surfboard at 17th Street Surf Shop on College Road.  The clerk there asked for ID, but barely compared the two.

Peter was able to spend $1,144.46 in less than two hours at Fran's expense.

So what can you do to protect yourself?  Identity fraud experts say to take the lead and insist clerks check your ID, and check your bills and credit report often.

"I would say with this age of technology it's easier to steal money with a pen than it is a gun," said deputy Ed McMahon with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office.

If you suspect credit card fraud, report it immediately.  You have 60 days to report irregularities.

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