The “very sophisticated” gift card fraud that the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office has uncovered may affect the whole country. In only seven days, 285 people were arrested for felony and minor offenses during an extensive anti-retail theft operation conducted by the sheriff’s office at significant box retailers around the county. A Chinese national was apprehended along with the others; they were discovered to be in possession of Apple and Target gift cards.
An investigation revealed that the suspect, a Chinese national, had stolen gift cards from a Target store’s rack and concealed them under his jacket. The suspect allegedly swapped out the lost cards with “another set of apparently similar ones,” according to the authorities. Following Sun’s arrest, investigators searched his vehicle and discovered many gift cards from Apple and Target, totaling thousands of dollars.
According to the Sherriff’s Office, the criminal would “surgically remove” the adhesive that hides the bar codes on real gift cards seen on shop shelves. After that, he supposedly would tape the PINs, use glue to hide the bar codes and put the cards back on the shelf. Unwary consumers would buy one of the tampered gift cards and load money onto it after they were put back on store shelves. Customers thought their cards were filled with funds, but the funds went to a bank account—probably a Chinese one.
Because this crime has never been reported, the sheriff’s office is appealing to the public to help solve it. When buying gift cards, customers should be on the lookout for any indications of tampering, such as scratches or scuffs close to the bar code.
Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper has blamed the ongoing increase in retail theft crimes in California at the feet of Proposition 47, which reduced the penalty for stealing from a felony to a misdemeanor for offenses involving $950 or less.