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Dustin Cuzick

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When you think of pickpockets, you probably picture a ragtag band of misfits straight out of a Charles Dickens novel, but several recent calls to our newsroom prove pickpocketing is alive and well.

The difference between crooks today and the thieves of yesteryear is these new criminals aren’t just after the cash in your wallet. They’ve got their eyes on your bank account. They know how to get it, and they do it fast.

Sandra Miarecki was eating lunch recently at a restaurant in the Promenade Shops at Briargate, when she was targeted by pickpockets. She says a man in the restaurant created a distraction while a woman stole her wallet from her purse.

Miarecki went to pay for her meal about 20 minutes later and realized her wallet was gone. Before she could call the bank to cancel her credit cards, the fraud alerts were buzzing on her phone. “The text messages were coming in, fraud, fraud, fraud, $1,500 at a time,” Sandra told us.

The thieves had taken Sandra’s credit and debit cards and were frantically draining her accounts. They were buying gift cards, going through the self-checkout lines at a local supermarket where IDs are not required to make purchases less than $2,000. They charged $1,500 dollars at a time, every few minutes. By the time Sandra’s cards were deactivated minutes later, they had charged more than $10,000.

Miarecki called the stores where the charges were coming from. “I talked to the manager and said, ‘Every single charge within the last half-hour for $1,500 is fraud.’ And she said, ‘I can shut down those gift cards,’ and I said ‘do it,’ and she did.”

Miarecki was able to get most of the charges refunded, but getting the money back from her credit union was a little more difficult. “It actually took me to contact the Federal Trade Commission using a formal complaint to get that $1,500 back [from her bank],” she said.

Miarecki recommends putting a very low limit on your debit/ATM cards, to prevent crooks from pulling large sums of cash.

Miarecki is also hoping for major changes in the way credit and debit cards are processed. She believes that all cards should require that a PIN number be punched in at the time of purchase.

“If we had this PIN number, on every transaction, it’s four little digits we all punch in, the crime would drop dramatically. And so I’m asking everyone who knows about this situation to contact your congressmen and senators and maybe we can get something changed this way.”

For more information on reporting fraud, go to KKTV.com and click on the “Find It” tab.

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