LEWISTOWN - Robert Duvall has likely never been to Lewistown. Neither has Troy Aikman.
But fradulent credit cards bearing their names have been recovered from a local resdience by Lewistown Police Department.
Beginning in 2011, the Lewistown Police Department started an investigation into a fraudulent credit card case that involved people from foreign countries. According to the release, the case resulted in legitimate credit cards with almost unlimited credit lines, in the name of celebrities and sport figures being shipped to a woman in Lewistown and other locations throughout the U.S. in addition to London, England.
Sentinel photos by DAN?PIETROPAOLO
Lewistown Police Department displays fraudulent credit cards in the names of famous figures such as Robert Duvall and Troy Aikman at their building in Lewistown.
Police said the investigation was conducted in cooperation with the Beverly Hills Police Department in California that received information that a man had been notified that a credit card in his name had been shipped to a Lewistown address.
Officers conducted surveillance on the Lewistown address and then executed a search warrant on the residence and seized numerous credit cards in the names of Hollywood actors, an executive in a film company and a retired NFL football player, police said.
According to the release, numerous computers were also seized from the residence.
The Secret Service then joined the investigation because it has a specialized credit card investigation section, police said.
Police said the investigation revealed that a credit card company was using a third party company during the holiday season to allow customers, mostly celebrities, to purchase high end gift cards in excess of $25,000 to give to friends and family. Police said the suspects then used passwords that the legitimate customers provided to a suspect working at the third party company to have working credit cards re-sent to the Lewistown address.
According to the release, investigating officers determined that a suspect in Lewistown communicated with other suspects in foreign countries and arranged for the cards to be shipped to another address. Police were able to seize the credit cards prior to them being used.
Police said the investigation is continuing and charges will be filed upon the completion of the case by federal authorities.
Fraudulent credit card scams have been found locally but law enforcement officials are stopping them. The FBI has also been working to fight credit card fraud nationally and recently halted one of the largest scams ever.
FBI agents arrested 13 people in four states, including Pennsylvania on Feb. 5 for allegedly creating thousands of phony identities to steal at least $200 million in one of the largest credit card fraud schemes in history, charges by the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
According to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey, the criminal enterprise stretched across dozens of states and numerous countries and the defendants charged in the complaint allegedly fabricated identities to obtain credit cards and doctored credit reports to pump up the spending and borrowing power associated with the cards.
The release said they would borrow or spend as much as they could based on their fraudulently-obtained credit history and not repay the debts, looting businesses and financial institutions of more than $200 million in confirmed losses.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said the 13 defendants were each charged with one count of bank fraud.
"This type of fraud increases the costs of doing business for every American consumer, every day," U.S. Attorney Fishman said. "Through their greed and their arrogance, the individuals arrested ... and their conspirators allegedly harmed not only the credit card issuers, but everyone who deals with increased interest rates and fees because of the money sucked out of the system by criminals acting in fraud rings like this one."
According to a documents filed in this case, the defendants and their conspirators stole hundreds of millions of dollars through a scheme repeated thousands of times to create more than 7,000 false identities and fraudulently obtain tens of thousands of credit cards.
But there are some ways to protect yourself.
People who make online purchases should make sure they know the reputation of the business or make sure to use a third-party payer such as PayPal, LPD suggested.
The use of a pre-paid card for online purchases is also highly recommended, police said.
The Federal Trade Commission says incorporating a few practices can help keep cards and account numbers safe.
Keep a record of account numbers, their expiration dates and the phone number to report fraud for each company in a secure place.
Don't lend credit cards to anyone - even children or roommates - and don't leave cards, receipts or statements around the home or office. Destroy documents that are no longer needed.
Don't give your account number to anyone on the phone unless you've made the call to a company you know to be reputable.
Carry cards separately from a wallet and carry only those needed during the current outing.
During a transaction, keep an eye on your card. Make sure it is returned before leaving.
Never sign a blank receipt. Draw a line through any blank spaces above the total.
Save receipts to compare with the billing statement.
Open bills promptly - or check them online often - and reconcile them with purchases made.
Report any questionable charges to the card issuer.
Notify the card issuer of travel plans or address changes.
Never write your account number on the outside of an envelope.