credit cards
Gift Card Cloning Scammers Arrested, Cards Seized

December 14, 2023

By Daniel Stefanski |

Arizona’s chief law enforcement officer has taken several, alleged Christmas grinches out of commission.

Late last week, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes announced that her office “in partnership with the Arizona Retailers Association and with the help of law enforcement partners, seized thousands of cloned gift cards and other merchandise.” Mayes’ coalition also arrested eight people “as part of an alleged scheme to defraud retailers and consumers.”

The law enforcement blitz and subsequent arrests come at a time where consumers would be more vulnerable to gift card and merchandise fraud during their frenzied holiday shopping.

In a statement to accompany her announcement, Mayes said, “The agents and investigators that make up the Organized Retail Theft Task Force in the Attorney General’s Office have demonstrated our commitment to protecting Arizonans from fraud by uncovering this complex gift card cloning scam. The successful seizure of thousands of cloned cards and the arrest of several individuals reflects my office’s unwavering dedication to stopping organized retail theft across Arizona.”

Mayes added her appreciation for the members of her coalition, saying, “I am grateful for the support the Arizona Retailer’s Association and our law enforcement partners provided to the Attorney General’s Office in this operation. Together, we will pursue and stop criminals engaged in these activities wherever they occur in our state.”

According to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, “gift card cloning happens when fraudsters take gift cards from stores, copy the magnetic strips, and return the copied gift cards to store shelves. When a consumer buys the card, the fraudster uses the copied magnetic strip to drain the funds leaving the consumer with a worthless card.”

Tips from Mayes’ office include the following:

  • Consumers can avoid being defrauded by double-checking to ensure that the number on the back of any gift card matches the number on the receipt. If the numbers do not match, that is a sign the card has been cloned.
  • Consumers should also look for signs of tampering, such as stickers placed over activation codes or damage to packaging or faint scratches on the card from being swiped through a card reader.
  • For extra precaution, consumers may consider purchasing gift cards stored behind the counter or near cash registers.

The Organized Retail Crime Task Force was established under the previous administration of Republican Mark Brnovich. In December 2021, Brnovich wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, warning would-be criminals of his office’s efforts to investigate and prosecute these offenses – especially in the wake of the lawlessness in Arizona’s neighboring state to the west. He wrote, “As Arizona’s attorney general, I have refused to capitulate to the lawless mob…We expect our efforts will deter such theft and hope our task force becomes a model for California and other states.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

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