By Alex Fees
ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KSDK) - On Friday St. Louis County police said they have seen security video from major retailers in other states showing people making charges involving some of the credit card numbers recently stolen from the St. Louis area.
Detective A.J. Soll is an identity theft investigator.
"I've already watched video of people's card numbers being used. And those cards are being used in Florida, Texas, California, the Carolinas, New York, Maryland; there's no particular state, one more than the other, right now. I watched video from a major retailer in South Carolina of two males using a card number of a person who lives here. And the card is in their possession here. So those are the end-users. There are a lot of steps between your card number being used in St. Louis and your card number being used to make a purchase in Maryland, for instance," said Soll.
Soll said it's relatively easy for investigators to get the video because the fraudulent transaction is recorded on the victim's credit card statement.
"Well, as long as it's a major retailer we can get that surveillance video and see who the end-user was," he added. "The hard part is getting the middle. We know who the victim is and we can see the end-user use the card; the middle, that's the big question."
Soll said those end users are also committing a crime; likely identify theft or fraudulent use of a credit device. Tracking them down, however, requires coordination with many different law enforcement agencies around the country, and due to the number of cases that may be prohibitive.
"Let's take a card that was used in Baltimore, Maryland. We would have to send that video to a local agency there and try to figure out who it is using software or bulletins. 'Does anybody know who this guy is?' We get those all the time here from other areas. We get them e-mailed to us daily," said Soll.
He gave an example.
"'This is a picture of a guy using a credit card in your area, the victim's in Texas. Has anybody investigated this guy before?" said Soll.
Soll also said the victims may not be limited to Schnucks shoppers.
"We don't know that for certain, either," he said. "It's too early to say that. I have a spread sheet going right now just looking at one precinct of where they've shopped. And people shop in lots of places, and if 100 people who all live in a close geographical area they've all shopped at very similar places. you would assume they all shop at the same retailers, or similar retailers. So, it's early."
So the stolen credit card cases are not unique to Schnucks?
"I can't say for certain either way," said Soll.
He said investigators are documenting cases from all seven precincts in St. Louis County.
"We're probably approaching 100 documented reports now. Those are just the ones that have been forwarded to me so far. They are trickling in as officers write them and as they get approved, etc. So I have no reason to think the numbers won't continue to go up."
Soll said if you check your credit card statement and discover you've been victimized, contact the police. But make sure you're contacting the right agency.
"Go to the police precinct or department that serves your home, or from your home call the police department and say, 'My identity's been stolen. I'd like an officer to come out and take a report.' And they'll dispatch an officer to your house," he said.
Detective Soll said this latest case of credit card fraud is following a predictable pattern.
"The pattern we're seeing is there's a test transaction," he said. "We're here, and the test transaction is in a state far away. It's a test at a local fast food place, convenience store, gas station, and once that goes through for $5, $10, $30, then we're seeing high-dollar amounts at mass retailers like Walgreens, Family Dollar, Dollar General, Target. Large stores; places that are all over the country, Lowe's, Home Depot, and those are often for gift card purchases. Once that stored value card is loaded for $100, or that Visa that can be used anywhere, they're really, really difficult to trace back to how and where they got loaded," said Soll.