A South Florida couple was arrested 200 miles from the Canadian border in Maine earlier this year, accused of a particular type of fraud that has affected many people in Miami and the South Florida area. While on vacation, the couple had enjoyed themselves by spending money on meals and shopping sprees to stores like Best Buy, Sears, and Walgreens. The only problem was that they were spending money that didn't belong to them. This South Florida couple was using stolen credit and debit cards that were cloned elsewhere in June 2016.
After they were arrested, their rented Jeep Patriot was searched, and 47 cards, two skimmers, and a laptop with the personal information of identity theft victims were found.
South Florida a Hotbed for Credit Card Fraud
South Florida has historically been a popular place for identity theft. In fact, the state of Florida reported one of the highest number of identity thefts in the country and ranked second in 2017 with 31,167 cases reported, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
Many of these criminals are now making their way into states that have lower incidences of these types of crimes in an attempt to not get caught. Areas like Maine, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Wisconsin are experiencing a more significant amount of these types of crimes due to South Florida scammers trying their efforts elsewhere. Some believe that the further they are from Miami, the less likely they are to get caught, but the recent arrests in Maine prove that theory wrong.
Over the last two years, nearly 40 Florida residents have been arrested and tried for identity theft fraud throughout the Southeast United States. Charges for these crimes include fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and having more than 15 credit cards.
These crimes can be classified as a first-degree misdemeanor if there are only two offenses committed in a six-month period for a value of less than $100. However, most fall into the third-degree felony range where there are three or more acts of fraudulent use along with a value of over $100 obtained from the crimes.
With a third-degree felony conviction, a suspect can face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Miami as a Gateway
Miami is a gateway city for this type of crime with criminals entering here, learning the trade, and moving on to other places in the county.
Scammers start with small devices called "skimmers" that can be assembled at home with materials that cost less than $150. The skimmers are then installed in places like gas station pumps or ATMs, where unsuspecting victims fall prey when they insert their credit cards into these devices.
A single skimmer can collect up to 2,000 credit card numbers, which can then be sold on the dark web. For $50, someone can buy ten credit card numbers, which are sometimes used to purchase gasoline that is resold on the black market for half the price.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are arrested and accused of a crime such as identity theft or credit card fraud, it's imperative that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can help you with your defense in the case against you.
At the Spatz Law Firm, we advocate for those accused of a crime, including those who have been wrongly accused of crimes such as credit card fraud or identity theft.
Álvarez, J. A. (n.d.). A fraud made in Miami is expanding to the rest of the country. Retrieved from https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article216387705.html
Florida Credit Card Fraud Laws. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://statelaws.findlaw.com/florida-law/florida-credit-card-fraud-laws.html