Two people are charged in Dakota County with using dozens of "cloned" credit cards to make thousands of dollars worth of fraudulent purchases across the Twin Cities metro area.
Emile Rey, 35, and Sade Robinson, 21, are accused of buying stolen information and using it to create cloned credit cards, FOX 9 reports.
They then used the fake credit cards to purchase gift cards at various stores in more than a dozen metro communities over the past four months, the station reports.
According to the criminal complaint, Rey used the credit card number of a resident of Savage, Minn., for the first time on February 27, when he purchased a gift card at the Target store in Eagan. The victim was still in possession of the credit card.
Over the next four weeks, Rey made a total of 21 fraudulent transactions at that Target, using several different cloned cards, according to FOX 9.
Robinson purchased gift cards at least 11 times at the same Target store, according to authorities.
After a victim noticed the fraudulent charges and alerted police, authorities installed an electronic tracking device on Robinson's car to trace her movements.
She reportedly drove to more than 40 Target and Walmart stores in 15 Twin Cities communities, including Bloomington, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Oakdale, Shakopee, Stillwater and Woodbury, according to FOX 9.
Robinson told police that she and Rey used cloned credit cards to purchase gift cards worth more than $10,000, the criminal complaint said.
Investigators accuse the two of using 25 different credit card numbers – all of them appear to be issued by Wells Fargo. The bank said those 25 card numbers were compromised in the Home Depot data breach last year.
What is a 'cloned' credit card?
Credit card cloning happens when someone obtains your credit card details, copies them onto a fake card and begins using the credit card. While credit card theft itself is not new, the way the information is stolen is, according to CreditNet.
Bad guys will use skimmers - small card readers - to read the information off a credit card. Once they have that information, they can simply make a new card using something as basic as an old hotel room key - any card that has a magnetic strip on the back will do.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said identity theft and credit card fraud is commonplace across the country.
“These people are pretty sophisticated,” Backstrom told WCCO. “They can produce cloned credit cards quickly and sell those cards to other people.”
Most victims don’t know their credit numbers have been stolen because they still have the credit card in their wallet.
The best way to protect yourself is to pay close attention to your credit and debit card statements, and look for any fraudulent purchases.
Experts also suggest that you set up alerts on your cards, so that you're notified when someone uses it to make a purchase above a certain amount. You can find more tips for protecting yourself from credit card fraud at Credit.com News.
So far 35 victims in the latest case have been identified, but Backstrom said there could be as many as 100 or more, according to WCCO.
If convicted, Rey and Robinson each could spend up to five years in prison.