Sealtiel Chacon Zepeda, a 22-year-old Beaverton, Oregon, resident, has pleaded guilty to five counts of computer crime after he successfully scammed stores out of $6,000 by cloning gift cards. Zepeda cloned the cards using software he found online, and a magnetic card reader that was able to rewrite the card's information. After stealing blank gift cards from store displays, Zepeda would go home, scan the card and return it. A computer program would notify him when it had been purchased by a shopper, and activated. Zepeda would then rewrite that card's information to another blank card and use it as normal. The 22-year-old ran the racket at Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Apple, Best Buy, Fred Meyer Macy's and Spencer Gifts.
Fred Meyer was the first to catch on to the deal when they started receiving a number of complaints from customers who said their just-purchased gift cards had a balance of zero. They passed the inquiry onto their fraud investigators who noticed that the balance of the gift cards in question was being checked hundreds of times per day. The activity set off alarm bells as most people only check the balance of a store gift card once or twice before maxing it out.
Mr. Zepeda was identified by his computers IP address and store CCTV cameras. He was caught using a cloned card in Fred Meyer and confessed the details of his crime. Authorities found more than 1,000 gift cards in Zepeda's home. Police Detective Michael Hanada said the Beaverton man's technique was one he'd rarely seen before, and hasn't been seen since Zepeda used it in early 2009.
"This is the first time I've ever seen it," Hanada said. "This was really unique."
According to OregonLive, Zepeda was sentenced to 18 months of formal probation for his hustling and a simultaneous drunk driving conviction. If he violates probation, he will serve 13 months in prison.