FBI warns businesses about stolen credit card scheme in the Southeast

GREENVILLE, South Carolina (WSPA) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation said there is a theft scheme in several states in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Now they want you to be able to spot the signs.

As business owners work diligently every day to bring in hard-earned cash, investigators say scammers are on the prowl.

“There are people every day – there are people trying to find ways to get money from you who you work for,” said Billy Brown, owner of Brown’s Tire and Muffler.

The North Carolina FBI said fraudsters were using stolen credit card numbers to make large purchases over the phone.

“Once a purchase has been made over the phone, the items are picked up by drivers and taken to other states to be resold. In many cases, drivers were hired through online job boards and paid using third-party cash apps and were unaware that the items were purchased illegally. A few days later, the victim businesses learned that the sales were fraudulent,” said a press release from the North Carolina FBI.

Brown said something similar happened to him a few years ago.

“I had someone call and make a large purchase. They gave me the credit card. It went through. Everything went well. They wanted me to send them the tires by mail. They sent the UPS sticker with it, to do it, and I did all of that, and then I found out the purchase was declined,” he said. “And that’s then I knew it was probably a stolen credit card,” Brown said.

The FBI said so far this year more than 100 businesses have been targeted, including lumber companies, trailer companies and tire, appliance and furniture stores in several states.

While Brown was a victim years ago, he said it was bad that it continued.

“It’s bad because it hurts, because that purchase at that time, I think, was $1,200 and that was four years ago, and that’s a lot of money. For a small business, losing that kind of capital, and if that happens multiple times, I mean it could really hurt a small business owner,” Brown said.

Brown said that since the incident his affairs have been more cautious.

“Here lately I’ve been a little more cautious about doing anything over the phone. We try to do everything in person,” Brown said.

Now he offers advice to other businesses.

“I would just say be careful with anything on the phone, especially if it’s a customer you don’t recognize or something someone hasn’t dealt with before. …to try to stay away from any purchases over the phone or credit card on the phone, is the best practice to have,” Brown said. “If you’re going to do them, just make sure you know the person and know that you’ll be okay to get your money’s worth,” he said.

The FBI said it believes there may be other victims. The FBI told 7-News it is working with several local law enforcement agencies on this ongoing investigation.

The FBI Charlotte said companies with similar unsolved crimes should call them at 704-672-6100 or file an online complaint.