Gift card cloner swipes thousands from unsuspecting shoppers

Gift card fraud is nothing new, but the lengths that officials say an Oregon man went to steal gift card credit from unsuspecting shoppers may amaze you -- and make you check the balances on your gift cards.

Sealtiel Chacon Zepeda, 22, was caught recently with thousands of gift cards in his apartment, but rather than taking them out of wallets or writing down card numbers from the store shelves he took a high tech approach to gift card fraud -- cloning or copying gift cards after they were activated. Zepeda pleaded guilty to various crimes related to the cloned cards.

Using a magnetic card reader and software found on the Internet, Zepeda read and stored the information on blank gift cards he brought home from stores like Fred Meyer, Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Apple, Best Buy and others. He then returned many of the blanks to the store where they were loaded up by unsuspecting shoppers. Another tool would alert him when a card had been activated, Then, after creating a copy, he would use the card before the purchaser or gift card recipient had a chance.