Scammers rip off popular stores

Published On: Oct 08 2013 03:32:03 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 09 2013 10:10:00 PM EDT

Inspectors say two thieves, using their actual names, managed to rip off almost two dozen popular discount stores.  They point to proof in surveillance photos at a Sam's Club.

Investigators say the thieves filled out credit application forms using the names of legitimate businesses and included themselves as users on the account.  They had photos taken of themselves and used their actual names and personal information.

"The most unique thing is essentially how stupid the bad guys were," said US Postal Inspector Carla Menendez.

The suspects were buying high ticket items like TV's, laptops and iPads then selling them. Postal Inspectors say it wasn't hard to catch up with this duo once Sam's Club fraud investigators tipped them off.

"Going in and allowing their own picture taken in a SAMS club allowing their own personal information to open these accounts thinking they are just going to get away with it," said Menendez.

They did get away with it for a little while, and inspectors say that time gap is exactly what the suspects counted on. They would usually use an account for two weeks and then move on.

"Most of these business were very large businesses, therefore they make a lot of money and a lot of purchases," explained Menendez.

In all, there were 21 companies impacted and tens of thousands of dollars in losses.
Inspectors say most of the companies were unaware of the charges.

"Purchasing a computer, laptop is related to their business and wouldn't make them question it unless someone brought it to their attention," said Menendez.

Both suspects in this case were sentenced to 12 to 15 months in prison.

Inspectors say their advice to businesses applies to everyone, always check bank statements and check your credit.

Everyone is entitled to  one free check every year with each of the three credit reporting agencies. The Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida recommends the website AnnualCreditReport.com.  It has step-by-step instructions and links to all three credit bureaus.