According to Kingsport Police Department Public Information Officer Tom Patton, detectives believe the suspects are tied to a larger network of criminal activity. Though the victims were still in possession of their original cards, the suspects were able to obtain “cloned” cards that contained correct account information.
KPD records state that on Tuesday, an ECU employee discovered fraudulent activity on multiple accounts. Police were alerted after successive purchases were made at different Walgreens locations. Officers then located five potential suspects at the store in Colonial Heights, 2900 Fort Henry Drive.
Following a review of surveillance footage from the pharmacies, police tabbed three of those people as using cloned cards: Keana Smith, 26, of Arlington Heights, Ill.; and Lewis Blake, 20, and Shalonda Hildebrand, 29, both of Chicago.
Police report the trio used 40 separate cloned cards to attempt 47 transactions in the Model City. Forty of those — including the rental of a car — were successful, tallying more than $1,000 in purchases. An incident report did not document what else was purchased.
Smith, Blake and Hildebrand were arrested and booked into the Kingsport city jail. Each faces 47 charges of identity theft and 47 counts of fraudulent use of a debit card.
Patton reports that not all of the cloned cards were from ECU accounts. How the suspects obtained the information is still under investigation.
Often, a “skimmer” device is placed on ATMs, gas pumps or other card readers. The skimmers read and record the card information, granting the means for duplicate cards to be created.
“It is virtually impossible to prevent this from happening to you,” said Patton. “That’s why it’s so important to monitor your accounts on a regular basis and report any unusual activity.”