VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Three men suspected of running a credit card theft operation out of Virginia Beach’s Town Center were in court Thursday morning.
Dwayne Session, 25, Andre Randall, 26, and Roget Smith, 25, all waived their right to a preliminary hearing.
Police say all three men are from Bronx, New York and had been in Virginia Beach for a week before they were arrested in April. They are facing various credit card theft and fraud charges.
Court documents reveal a victim received a text alert on her phone on Sunday April 10. The alert asked her if she had made a purchase for $720 at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Town Center. The victim called the restaurant immediately, and employees identified the men with her stolen card number.
According to the documents, police arrived as the suspects were walking out the door. They were led to the suspects’ hotel rooms at the Westin, where they found credit cards in bags and the machines to make them.
Police also discovered the Westin hotel rooms, totaling around $4,000, had been paid for with another stolen credit card number. The victim whose card was used for the Westin also received an alert on his phone to the suspicious activity.
Police say the men spent more than $20,000 in Virginia Beach and Norfolk with stolen card numbers.
Detective Jessica Cole, who works economic crimes for the police department, said alerts and the restaurant employees’ quick thinking led to the arrests.
Cole is not involved in this credit card theft case, but was able to speak to WAVY.com about the issue of fraud and stolen identities. She said private information is breached more often than one thinks.
“It happens every day, all day long,” she said.
Despite precautions credit cardholders take, a bank’s system can be breached and your credit card information can be sold.
“It’s usually in the underground internet world,” explained Cole. “And they purchase people’s personal information and credit card numbers. And they use it to perpetuate the fraud.”
Like the victims in this case involving Ruth’s Chris and the Westin, Cole encourages people to talk with banks about alerts offered. Cole said those alerts could be texts, daily emails, spending limits, or even alerts that your card has been used outside your usual shopping area.
“Make sure you’re aware of all of your transactions,” said Cole.
She added that you shouldn’t underestimate the power of a strong password that has no personal information in it.
“Any information that you might post on social media could potentially be used to crack a password,” said Cole. “That’s why it’s very important not to use personal information within that.”
Cole said fraud detectives from the police department are available to talk with groups or businesses in the community. She said they can speak about theft and ways to protect yourself and your information.
Session, Randall, and Smith’s case will be certified to the grand jury. Their case will be back in court on June 6.