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Across-the-country stolen credit card crime spree hits Middle Tennessee

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MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -

A ring of credit card crooks is victimizing people across the South, according to police. Police across the country are now investigating this group, which has hit Middle Tennessee several times.

With a simple swipe, the credit card number theft ring could hit anyone carrying a debit or credit card in their pocket or purse.

Hundreds, if not thousands of people have fallen victim to this multi-state, stolen credit card, number-fraud ring.

"These cards have been used in Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, California, various Internet sales across the country," said Murfreesboro police detective Tommy Massey.

The cards look real, but cops said they are as fake as a $3 bill.

"The actual card holder is a resident of the state of Alaska," Massey said as he held up one of the fake cards. "However the name printed on the card does not correspond with that customer-client."

Several of the suspects are captured on surveillance video at several stores. Police believe they are part of a group of eight-to-10 people.

Detectives believe the thieves are stealing credit card numbers using skimmers, or they could simply be buying numbers in bulk off the Internet.

"They are actually taking the card number and producing their own Visa, MasterCard, and then using fake identification to put that name to correspond with that card," Massey said.

The crooks, police said, normally use self-checkout lanes at various big box stores, and will have a stack of fake credit cards just in case one is declined.

"They are utilizing sometimes upwards 17 ro 20 cards just to make eight to 10 purchases," the detective said. "If one card is declined, they use another one."

Murfreesboro detectives started an investigation in March, after a local bank had hundreds of their customers card numbers stolen over a five-month period.

"Those losses to that lending institution totally in excess of $150,000," he said.

Police believe the credit card thieves may be from the Miami, FL area, but they spend a lot of time hitting stores all over Middle Tennessee purchasing gifts cards, and high-end electronics. They often return the items at the same, named stores in Florida for cash.

"They are out here committing serious felony crimes on a daily basis, and at this point it doesn't appear anyone is immune from it," Massey said.

Detectives are also concerned that one of the women, who usually wears jeans with holes, is seen using the fake credit cards with a young boy in tow.

"They have no regard, not only for you, but even their own child if they are willing to go out here and engage in that type criminal activity, and take their child along with them when they do it," Massey said.

The thieves have been seen leaving in several vehicles including a Nissan Altima with Florida plates, and a Ford F-150 with Davidson County tag number K11 56D.

Several other law enforcement agencies including Anderson police are looking for the same people. They have surveillance video and photos of the suspects, but have yet to identify them.

Cops are offering a few tips on keeping yourself from becoming a victim. First using a credit card offers more protections than a debit card, since money doesn't come directly out of your account.

Report fraudulent charges as soon as you see them. The law states you can only be liable for the first $50 in bad charges.

Also be on the lookout for skimmers, those are the plastic devices that copy your information when you swipe your card at places like ATMs or at a gas pump.

If you know who these suspects are, or if you have any information you feel will be helpful, you can give Murfreesboro detectives a call at (615) 893-2717 or you can reach Hendersonville police at (615) 264-5303.

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