Identity thieves target women at small businesses

HOUSTON Investigators say two women went on a $2,000 shopping spree using stolen credit cards, hitting nearly a dozen different stores in the Humble area in just a matter of hours.

Victim Katie Howse said, "Someone has to know their names, where they live, maybe the car they drive, license plate number. I would like to see them get what they deserve."

Howse works at the Huffman area flower shop where investigators say two women pretended to be customers. Howse says a woman in a burnt-orange sweatshirt came in and started talking to her, while a woman carrying a purse went in the back claiming to use the restroom. An hour after they left, Howse realized her wallet was missing.

She said, "I'm very careful about where I keep my wallet so when I reached in there, I kind of knew those girls probably did it."

By the time she called her bank, the spending spree had already started and Howse was out about $800. Apparently, the stores did not ask the women for ID.

Sgt. M. Ellison with the Harris County Sheriff's Office explained, "If merchants fail to identify these individuals, then what happens is it becomes easy access as far as their credit card being compromised."

While Howse was busy trying to close her accounts, investigators say the same two women pulled a similar scam on Shirley Gautreaux at her Crosby antique shop. She thought the woman in the burnt-orange sweatshirt was a customer until she started behaving strangely.

"She wanted to get out of there. You could tell," Geautrerax recalled. "The other lady walked up and she said, 'I'm ready to go. I'm ready to go. Let's go.' And they were gone."

And so was Geautrerax's purse. She says the woman knew exactly where to find it, which leads her to believe she may have been in the store before. Investigators say the pair, caught on surveillance camera, wasted no time in spending her money.

"I'd like to see them stopped," Geautrerax said. "I hope they find them and stop them. It's terrible."

If you recognize the women in the video, you're asked to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-8477.

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