CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Cheryl Cross was blown away by how fast some thieves who stole her credit cards at a Midlothian restaurant racked up $6,000 worth of charges.
Cross was at a Panera Bread with a few of her friends on Oct. 8 when she jumped up to get her food. She assumed her friends were watching her purse, but later realized some people who had come in and sat down behind her group had rearranged the table.
That was a likely distraction, she said, so the pair could steal credit cards from her purse.
"I had no idea this happened until I got a text from my credit card companies asking me if I attempted to make $1,000 and $2,000 purchases that declined," Cross explained.
Cross said she was told the thieves used a fake Virginia license at a nearby Panera Bread on Midlothian Turnpike not far from Courthouse Road. It had one suspect’s picture on it and Cross’ name.
After the first card declined a few times, she says they allegedly pulled out two of her other cards and purchased $6,000 worth of Target gift cards.
"Apparently these people take those Visas and sell them on the street for cash. They are not traceable," Cross said. "I think they may choose an establishment where people are on cellphones and computers and may be conducting business meetings and aren’t aware of their personal belongings."
Cross said if there is any silver lining in this story, it is that the crooks used her card as a credit card transaction instead of debit. As a result, she was able to recoup her money from her credit card company.
Now she wants to warn others that the suspects are still out there. In fact, she has even warned other Panera customers when it appears their personal belongings are unattended.
“When I see this happening, I remind them to put their purse in their lap,” Cross said.
The Better Business Bureau’s Tom Gallagher said when this kind of crime happens, many people come out on the losing end.
That includes the victim, and possibly the store, if they are not using the required EMV readers to scan credit cards with special chips.
“If the credit card processor doesn't have safeguards in place, the retailer can end up holding the bag. It can destroy a retailer," Gallagher warned.
Chesterfield police are still investigating this crime. If you have information that can help investigators, call Crime Solvers at 804-748-0660.