Andy's Cyber Crime Cops - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Andy's Cyber Crime Cops

(WMC TV) - He never lost his debit card. It has always been either in his wallet or in his hand.

Yet someone stole his debit card number and made two online purchases: one for airfare, the other for clothing.

"We don't know how they got it," said the man's father, who requested that both of them not be identified.

At the same time the man's number turned up stolen, a woman in Las Vegas bought frequent-flyer points from an unknown source on Craigslist. She used the points to purchase a discounted plane ticket to Memphis.

Her cell phone number and her sister's name are the contacts listed on the ticket -- purchased with our man's debit card number.

"Depending on how they got the information, which we obviously don't know yet, it could be a part of a bigger ring," said the man's father.

If it is part of a bigger ring, that's where the Mid-South Electronic Crimes Task Force takes over.

Led by the U.S. Secret Service's Memphis office, the task force employs three full-time digital forensic examiners: two federal agents and one Germantown, TN, police officer.

The task force boasts the top computer forensic lab in the country, by volume of data investigations. With its 700 terabyte server and 19 local, state and regional police partners, it averages a 2-week turnaround on investigations of online scams or crimes containing digital evidence.

"What we're looking for is multiple victims from a common source," said Special Agent-In-Charge Rick Harlow of the Secret Service's Memphis office. "At the same time, we help state and local agencies in investigating these types of crimes."

The task force is credited with cracking the international online crime ring that hacked the customer credit/debit card database of Jason's Deli, 1199 Ridgeway Rd., in 2010 (for our original story, click here).

The task force pinpointed the crime ring, diagrammed the virus that penetrated the database and helped the restaurant retrofit its systems to prevent another hacking.

"What we're trying to find is a point of compromise to help businesses limit their liability," Harlow said.

The Action News 5 Investigators attempted to reach the woman whose number and whose sister purchased the airline ticket with the man's stolen debit card number, according to the purchase record. The woman claimed she purchased the ticket with her own card information, but she would not reveal the Craigslist seller who sold her the frequent-flyer points or the origin of those points.

Instead of naming the women in this story, we decided to turn their information over to the Mid-South Electronic Crimes Task Force for possible investigation -- in case the Craigslist connection is part of a broader crime.

"I figured at least me reporting it might add a little piece to the bigger puzzle," said our debit card theft victim's father.

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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