CLEVELAND - The Cleveland FBI reports criminals are scamming small businesses in several states, using stolen credit cards. Store clerks aren't alerted to these bad credit cards until it's too late, allowing the crooks to steal thousands of dollars in merchandise.
The scam works because some businesses rely on satellite equipment to relay credit card information once a card is swiped inside the store.
Criminals then have the opportunity to climb onto the roofs of these businesses and put aluminum foil over satellite antennas to block credit card communications.
Cleveland FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson told NewsChannel5 once the satellite equipment is blocked, the crooks will then make their way into the store and are using bad credit cards without necessarily being detected.
"They'll interrupt the signal and then they'll go in the store and purchase high-end items, and when that credit card is not authorized, a lot of times the businesses will allow it to go through thinking that they'll validate it later," explained Anderson. "When they do that, later they'll find out it was a bad credit card."
The FBI alert reports the scam is being used in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia.
NewsChannel5 Also contacted police in Kansas City, Missouri, where investigators confirmed several small businesses were hit back in September 2013.
The FBI is telling business owners who use satellite credit card verification to make sure a sale is validated before they let customers leave the store with merchandise.
"We're asking businesses to be aware of this," said Anderson. "Make sure that it is their system that is legitimately down, that it's not something that is interrupting their satellite signal."
Cleveland small business managers like Anthony Kelbacher, who runs S.P. Leather at Gordon Square, appreciates the warning, even though his shop uses a credit card reader that is connected via phone line.
Kelbacher said he'll spread the warning at the next Detroit Shoreway community development meeting.
"We'll let the community know, because we have meetings here about all kinds of break-ins, and now this new thing,' said Kelbacher. "So I will definitely bring it to their attention."
"Why would you risk your life getting on the roof, falling off, to put tin foil on a satellite, so you can get a credit card. It's crazy, these guys. I just hope they get caught."