Philadelphia police are warning area merchants to be on the lookout for a sophisticated scam involving prepaid credit and debit cards that has resulted in thefts of over $10,000 from local businesses, according to the Central Detective Division.
Investigators said the scheme starts with a well-dressed customer walking into a store, selecting merchandise and paying with a prepaid credit or debit card printed with the customer's name.
The card appears legitimate because the customer backs it up with a Pennsylvania driver's license or identification card bearing the same name.
When the merchant swipes the card, it's immediately declined because no funds have been deposited on it.
But, according to police, the customer pretends to call a representative of their bank that's actually a co-conspirator at another location, then hands the merchant the phone.
The co-conspirator inquires if the merchant has verified the customer's identification, asks a series of questions regarding what type of card reading machine the merchant is using and instructs the cashier to key in a series of commands, which results in a printout of a receipt stamped with an approval code.
The customer signs the receipt and exits the store with the merchandise, though no funds are actually exchanged.
Police said most merchants don't discover they've been duped until they receive a charge back from their bank several days later.
Purchases made using the scam have ranged from several hundred dollars to over $10,000, according to investigators.
The Central Detective Division Special Investigation Unit has launched an inquiry into the swindle.
Anyone with information is asked to contact contact Detective Steven Parkinson at 215-686-3093.