Regional credit card thieves caught in N. Georgia - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Regional credit card thieves caught in N. Georgia

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Credit card thieves are finding creative ways to get away with stealing information. Police say they're using new technology, and loading stolen accounts onto cards with their own names on them.

"I've seen it before, where they take generic debit cards... and encode them with other people's credit card information," said Tunnel Hill Lt. Scott Reneau.

And that's what police say Melvin Mack Gatlin, 28, and Tetrice Palmer, 19, were doing in Dalton last week. The couple was driving a rental white Chevrolet Cruze from Atlanta across the South, hitting up Walmarts and racking up thousands of dollars on debit cards with Palmer's name of them. But the real accounts loaded onto them weren't hers.

"It appears what he does is drive her around and let her do the purchases because that keeps him out of it," Reneau said. "She's the only one that's going to show up on camera, her name's on the card."

Reneau stopped them traveling on I-75 N after they were seen driving slow and crossing the center line. A K9 dog sniffed marijuana, and a search turned up Walmart shopping bags with a brand new Playstation 4 and iPad inside.

"People from Atlanta are not going to drive all the way up to Dalton to buy those items," he said.

Police then found 11 different debit cards with Palmer's name on them, and later verified that none of the accounts matched the cards. But what tipped police off right away: the equipment used for forgery -- a computer and encoder -- was right there in the trunk.

It's a crime becoming increasingly popular, said Reneau. Driving hours to stores miles away, attempting to fly off the radar.

"Nobody knows who you are, then you go back to where you're from and sell the items. You're making straight cash right there."

Gatlin has a criminal past that includes similar charges. Palmer told police they had stopped at stores in South Carolina, Dalton, Ga. and were on the way to a Walmart in Chattanooga.

Investigators from Whitfield County used special technology to scan credit cards to see what kind of information is on them.
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