Havana Police Chief Tracy Smith reported an unusual arrest early last Thursday morning that brought to light a nationwide identity theft scam in which many people are losing thousands of dollars.
Officer Brandon Wilson stopped a car for speeding about 2:30 a.m. Thursday and when he asked the driver to produce her license and other documentation, he found the driver had false identification.
Officer Wilson also asked the female passenger for IDs and found hers to be false as well. On further investigation in the car, the officer found multiple false IDs and credit cards, as well as other forged documents.
The woman explained she was approached by a man on the street, asking if she wanted to make easy money. He provided her with false credit cards and IDs. She and the driver of the car were told to try to remove money with the credit cards at banks and they’d get some money for their expenses. The remainder they were supposed to send to the man who approached them. The duo then went to several cities in the area.
They are suspected of being involved in widespread cases of credit and debit card thefts, false documents and other fraudulent items in the Tallahassee area, Chief Smith said. The duo was arrested by Officer Wilson and taken to jail.
Smith said the scenario that plays out in cases like this is one in which the scammers steal credit card numbers from unsuspecting people through portable and store or restaurant scanners or reading over someone’s shoulder. They then create their own credit card with that number with machinery they carry with them and create other identity cards and documents to back up the credit card numbers if questioned. They provide them to the street people to use at banks, etc.
When the pair was arrested last Thursday all of the false identifications and other materials were seized. The U.S. Secret Service is now involved in the investigation, and other area agencies who have also seen thousands of these types of cases are now connected. This is the first such case in this area, said Chief Smith.
“This is a bad situation throughout the country,” said Chief Smith. “We want to make a small dent in the problem. These two women arrested are now off the streets and will be for a very long time. Someone, somewhere has had their IDs stolen. Thousands of dollars have been removed from bank accounts and credit cards everywhere, and the card holder has no idea.”
Smith said credit card access is virtually impossible to stop, especially now with portable pocket scanners and apps for smart phones, enabling thieves to learn credit card numbers. “Identity theft is here to stay,” the chief said.
If you suspect someone has accessed your credit card illegally and removed money from your bank account, contact your local police department immediately, as well as the credit card company and your bank. Identify charges or fund removals that you did not make. The bank and law enforcement agencies will investigate, which may take days or weeks in which you will not have access to those funds. Plan for such emergencies by having other funds available in an account not accessible by credit cards or automated tellers.
Rachel Destiny Dean and Shalana Riggins were both arrested and transported to the Gadsden County Jail. They each face several charges.