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Prisoners in jail cells attempting credit card fraud in Jekyll Island

6:45 PM, May 30, 2013   |    comments
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JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. -- Tourists are being targeted as possible crime victims, and most of the perpetrators are believed to be serving time in jail.

Tourists come to beautiful Jekyll Island for a quiet, scenic getaway. But if they are not careful they could become victims of credit card fraud.

The signs are at every hotel, a fraud alert warning guests that the hotel would never ask for their personal or credit information over the phone. But the Georgia State Patrol says prisoners in jail cells in Georgia are asking for the information.

"Prisoners are using cellphones that were smuggled into penal institutions illegally, and the prisoners are committing credit card theft by telephone," said Senior Georgia State Patrol Trooper Powell Allen.

At least six attempts were reported at Jekyll Island area hotels in recent days at peak times. Callers ask for a common name, a Mr. Jones, or Mrs. Smith, and if they are successful in being  transferred to a room, they say there has been a mix-up with their credit card at the hotel and guests are asked to confirm credit card information. They have also threatened guests over the phone.

"One of the callers was brazen enough to threaten a guest, tell them if you don't give us your credit card number right now, we will have you escorted off the property , out of your room," said Allen.

Trooper Allen says he has traced four successful credit card transactions to the accounts of prisoners in Georgia state prisons and several others are now being investigated by the Department of Corrections. 

Allen says in that case, a victim's debit account was cleared of $240. The prisoners usually charge between 20 and 60 dollars as that is the limit for thier prison accounts.

Hotels are trying their best to screen calls and warn guests. 8 year manager Jason Smith at Oceanside Villas says it is frustrating.

"Our guests that come here for vacation, rest and relaxation, are having to concern themselves (with it) and we're having to be proactive and tell people about them, it tarnishes their experience here."

Dee Pifer visiting from Columbus,Ohio says she hasn't been a victim, but is not the least bit surprised at this another scam and knows she has to be smart.

"It is very scary, I think that people need to be very careful when they travel, and keep their wits about them. If you get a call from someone like that and you are not sure who they are, you should go to the front desk about it."

Alllen says he has been investigating these type crime attempts for almost a year and believes it can happen to anyone anywhere, not just in Jekyll Island. He says the Georgia Department of Corrections is investigating several similar cases. Allen urges hotel guests to never give out credit card information over the phone and inquire at the desk if you have any questions about phone inquiries.

First Coast News

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