By Gina Yarbrough
Fallbrook, CA–A woman was arrested on suspicion of a gift card scam, and identity and mail theft following a traffic stop on April 8 in Fallbrook, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said.
A Sheriff’s deputy pulled her car over for having an expired registration around 4 a.m. near the intersection of Tecalote Drive and Pala Lake Drive.
During the traffic stop, the deputy ran a records check and it revealed the driver had outstanding warrants from Orange and Riverside Counties.
The deputy searched the car after the driver, identified as Rebecca Stedtfeld, was taken into custody for the outstanding warrants. Hundreds of unused gift cards and stolen mail were found in the car. The stolen mail came from Carlsbad, Fallbrook, Encinitas, Escondido, Ramona, and San Marcos. A ledger documenting gift card barcodes with corresponding access or PIN codes were also found in the car. The gift cards were connected to Walmart, Target, Ralph’s, Bath and Body Works, and other VISA gift cards.
Stedtfeld was booked into the Vista Detention Facility on outstanding warrants and several charges of identity theft, conspiracy to commit a crime, committing a crime while out on bail, and possessing burglary tools.
Deputies contacted the local stores about the stolen gift cards. Store employees told authorities they were aware of the gift card scams. Thieves would grab gift cards off the shelves and record the barcode and access codes. The cards are returned to the stores for purchase.
Thieves monitor the cards and scammers will use the recorded access codes to steal the funds. The gift cards are no longer of value to the buyer or the intended recipient of the gift.
The Sheriff’s Department offers tips for consumers to protect themselves:
- Stick to stores you know and trust. Avoid buying from online auction sites because the cards may be fake or stolen.
- Check it out before you buy it. Make sure the protective stickers are on the card and that they do not appear to have been tampered with. Also, check that the PIN number on the back isn’t showing. Get a different card if you spot a problem.
- Keep your receipt. This, or the card’s ID number, will help you file a report if you lose the gift card.
- Scammers also print bar codes on stickers and place them on top of the real gift card numbers and PINs. Run your finger over the bar code to ensure a sticker hasn’t been applied.
- If the packaging looks altered in any way, it could be a scam. Thieves will open the sealed packaging, record the gift card information and then place it back on the shelf.
- Report the fraud to the store. They may ask you to share your receipt and other purchase information.
- If you lost money, contact your local law enforcement agency. A crime report may help you deal with the card issuer.
- Report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission to help the FTC prevent future cases.
If you have information about the thefts or think you might be a victim, call the Sheriff’s Department non-emergency line at (858) 565-5200. You can remain anonymous and be eligible for up to a $1,000 reward for information that leads to a felony arrest. Call Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.