Internet Retailer: To catch an e-commerce thief …


Facebook and Google played a role in helping Micro Center’s fraud prevention professionals nab criminals exploiting in-store pickup of high-end web orders. One of the alleged criminals not only used the same unusual name repeatedly, she bragged about her exploits on Facebook.

Here’s a tip for would-be criminals bent on committing e-commerce fraud: Don’t brag on Facebook. That’s the lesson offered by a recent incident involving Micro Electronics Inc., parent company of multichannel electronics retailer Micro Center—a lesson that shows how combating e-retail fraud can involve old-fashioned detective work bolstered by the web.

The retailer’s fraud prevention professionals noticed that suspected criminals were placing orders via the Micro Center e-commerce site for in-store pickup. Those suspects typically were using credit cards to buy high-end Apple products, MacBook Pro notebooks and iPads, with the typical order running about $3,000, says Skip Myers, a former police detective who now works as director of loss prevention for the merchant. That Micro Center fraud-fighting team also relies on fraud-prevention firm Kount to help spot iffy transactions that might be criminal.

The credit card name the suspects used was unusual, he says, and after two days the same suspect shopped at Micro Center’s Chicago store with a different stolen credit card number but with the same unusual name. That was when Myers’ team Googled her name. The name, which he would not reveal, appeared on the first page of Google results via an Oklahoma Department of Corrections book-in sheet that also included her photo, past offenses and the name of her probation officer—she’d already been convicted for credit card fraud.

“We matched her prison mug shot with our video surveillance footage from her transactions in Kansas City and Chicago,” he says. “The probation officer was very interested in [her] whereabouts because she had not reported to the probation office in weeks.” Further web checks revealed a Facebook page for the suspect “that bragged about her trip across the county ‘ripping off’ stores with bogus credit cards. Ms. Jones [not her real name] even discussed on her Facebook timeline what cities she visited and what cities she was traveling to. Ms. Jones also discussed that she was with two other male friends.”

Myers’ team alerted Micro Center stores in Ohio that Ms. Jones was on her way. Two days later she and her male colleagues placed a web order for in-store pickup of Apple items from the Micro Center store in Columbus, the state capital and site of the retail chain’s founding. “The suspects were identified and promptly left the store without any merchandise,” he says.

A day later, the criminals tried a similar move at a Micro Center store in Cleveland. This time, Myers’ team had alerted local police and the traveling trio was arrested. “Upon a search of her vehicle, police found numerous stolen items in the trunk of her car from Micro Center, Home Depot, Best Buy and Target,” he says. “Ms. Jones was charged with felony credit card fraud and violating her probation.”

Micro Center aggressively prosecutes criminals who steal from it, Myers says, on the theory that word of the effort filters back to other criminals. “We believe there’s an ROI, and that it sends a message,” he says.

Source: Authored by Thad Rueter , Senior Editor for Internet Retailer.