In Wakulla County, Florida, a victim of credit card fraud reported several fraudulent charges to detectives at the Sheriff’s Department. Only days later, the police received video footage from a shopping center that revealed four hooded individuals entering the building and frantically swiping the cards at self-checkout stations. The men, investigators later learned, had purchased dozens of stolen credit and debit card numbers from a darknet market and used the cards to steal as much as $1,500 from victims every day since they launched their fraud operation.
Even though identity theft is one of the crimes used by the mainstream media in the ongoing effort to make the public believe that even downloading the Tor browser is a criminal activity, it is still something that occurs and that some dark web vendors enable. Stolen credit card information is ultimately more readily available on the clearnet through fraud forums and illegal shops. The buyers of stolen credit card information on the darknet have a habit of using the cards at physical stores where law enforcement can easily identify them through video surveillance. These particular fraudsters were not an exception to this rule.
In late May, the first victim reported the theft to the police. Walmart employees, only a few days after the police report, sent the police footage that showed four men swiping credit cards and debit cards at a number of self-checkout machines before leaving the store. The video footage failed to show any of the men’s faces. Walmart employees, though, were confident that they could recognize the suspected fraudsters if they ever returned.
Walmart sent the police the footage after the victim’s credit card company notified the police that the fraudulent charge the victim had reported had originated from Walmart. Furthermore, the victim reported a fraudulent charge of almost $230 but her credit company reported that the fraudsters had stolen a total of $625.30 from the woman on the same day. For some reason, the woman had only spotted the $230 fraudulent transaction which is normal behavior of people who are stolen from. It is not until the credit card company sends a text or phone call questioning a suspicious purchase, that the victim is even aware something terrible has happened.
The police asked Walmart employees to keep an eye out for the suspected fraudsters. Of course, returning to the scene of a crime as a criminal rarely proves beneficial. And skilled fraudsters know never to return to a location with employees or cameras that could identify them. Nevertheless, the police suggested that Walmart employees keep an eye out for the four men on the off chance that they would return to a Walmart where they had allegedly committed numerous counts of fraud.
On June 5, only days after the victim’s police report, the local police department received a phone call from Walmart staff. According to the police, employees at Walmart had spotted the four same men, the suspected fraudsters entering the building. The police responded. As the police pulled into the Walmart parking lot, the suspected fraudsters had left Walmart and started entering into a Toyota Corolla. The police conducted a traffic stop before the car made it to an interstate highway. Although four suspects were identified by the police both in the car and later on camera, the police have only charged three of them with any crimes. They have not even revealed the name of the fourth suspect.
Inside the car, the police found Sharone Greene, Terrance Wells, James Grant, and one unnamed suspect. Each suspect had, in their possession, at least 10 stolen credit card numbers on fake cards. The police took the suspects to the police department where they conducted interviews and learned that the stolen card information had been purchased on the darknet by one of the four suspects. According to information revealed by one of the suspects, one of the other suspects had a connection on the darknet that supplied stolen credit card information. The suspects then used that information in conjunction with blank cards to purchase up to $1,500 from various stores in Florida on a daily basis. Three of the suspects have been charged with multiple counts of fraud and are currently in custody. The police have not revealed information regarding the fourth suspect or if any bail will be set up for the other three.