Two charged in 'skimming' case

September 4, 2009 5:09:49 AM PDT
We have a renewed warning about thieves who may be looking to steal your credit card numbers. Two local men are facing charges, accused of "skimming" credit card accounts. Investigators say the men were going to target a store. The two defendants named in a criminal complaint were just indicted by a federal grand jury and what they're accused of doing will make you keep an even closer eye on your credit card.

It is a plastic-driven world and crooks have adapted.

"These types of digital or cyber crimes are the wave of the future for criminal activity," Tim Foley, Houston Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service.

Information fraud investigations are a big part of the Secret Service's workload these days, and agents here in Houston just made another case.

According to court documents, Tahmas Ali Kahn and Umair Muhammad Ghaffar had all the tools to defraud unsuspecting credit card holders at a northwest side Cricket store. The plan, according to the paperwork, was for Gahffar to use what's called a skimming device to steal customer credit card numbers in order to make fake credit cards. He got the device from Kahn, the documents say, and would have made $100 per number, if the Secret Service hadn't been tipped off.

"This is a fairly typical skimmer," said Agent Foley.

He can't talk about case specifics because of department policy, but Foley did show us what crooks do when you take your eyes off your credit card.

"Once they get your credit card, they quickly swipe it through. All the information on the magnetic strip is then captured in this device," Agent Foley said.

Using a computer, from there they transfer the information to an encoder that can then put it on a blank card.

"Basically a duplicate of the credit card without your knowledge," said Agent Foley.

The court records say Kahn made a lot of money doing it before.

"I don't have anything to say," said Kahn's brother, when we tried to talk to him about the allegations.

With this type of crime becoming more common, Foley urges credit card users to beware.

"Be vigilant, don't let the credit card out of your sight whenever possible," said Agent Foley.

If that's not possible, Agent Foley encourages people to watch their monthly statements closely. He says restaurant wait staff are the biggest culprits.

As for the two defendants, if convicted they could face up to 15 years in prison.

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