A New Jersey sports card store owner is warning other retailers to be aware of a credit card scam that cost him nearly $2,600 last week.
This is a scam that allegedly took place in multiple states. And while it takes a bit of moxie to get there, if successful, it can leave a card shop owner without high-end cards and the money that was used to pay for them.
Rob Katz knows it. His store was a victim and he says he is having trouble with his bank and insurance company.
“Welcome to my new career,” said Katz, 57, who opened Bergen County Sports Cards in Bergenfield six months ago. Katz got into the collectibles business after losing his 32-year-old job near the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a post-COVID pivot,” said Katz, who has also worked in sports radio and handled production duties at WNBC Radio and WCBS Radio in New York.
On Nov. 6, he said a woman walked into the store and purchased items including high-end card boxes. The woman used two different credit card numbers (MasterCard and American Express) to purchase the items. The card numbers were entered on a Countertop A80 terminal that Katz purchased from Bank of America.
Katz was attending a card show in the New York metro area at the time, and a 21-year-old intern managing the store handled the transaction.
The woman said she didn’t have her credit cards with her but had the numbers, which the intern entered manually.
“We were suspicious,” Katz said.
The woman was asked to show identification and produced an Ohio driver’s license, Katz said. The license listed the woman’s name as “Emily Rush” and had a photo that matched the client. The store’s surveillance cameras also matched the woman making the transaction with the photo on the driver’s license she presented.
“He’s a skilled person,” Katz said.
The woman also gave the intern a phone number with an area code of 917, which is used for all cell phones in New York’s five boroughs.
“She also questioned our ‘desire to sell to someone like her,’ Katz said. “She threatened my intern.”
The intern ran card numbers on a Countertop A80 machine, which handles point-of-sale transactions and allows buyers and sellers to manually enter credit card numbers.
According to transaction receipts Katz provided to authorities and Sports Collectors Daily, the first transaction was made at 12:07 p.m. A MasterCard was used to purchase $1,300 worth of cards. Eight minutes later, the woman used an American Express card to purchase an additional product worth $1,284.
Some of the products the woman purchased included a Mosaic Mega Basketball Box, a Donruss Elite Football Hobby Box, two Revolution Basketball Hobby Boxes, two Panini NBA Prizm Basketball Boxes Mega and four Prizm Hobby Lite Mega basketball boxes.
The transactions were approved and everything seemed to be going well until November 12th.
“The money sits there for six days until Saturday when I get a notice that the charge was fraud and they took the money out of my account to refund the real owner of the card,” said Katz. “When I called Bank of America, the money was gone in the blink of an eye.”
Katz claims that Bank of America refused to “back up” manual authorization transactions after selling him the terminal for $499.
“If I knew you wouldn’t save your own manual authorization, I never would have had it in my store,” Katz wrote in an email to the bank. “A simple Clover or Square would have been fine.”
Initially, Katz said he wasn’t getting a sympathetic response from the bank.
“My Bank of America merchandiser said to me, ‘I’m not going to lie to you. But that’s the cost of doing business,” Katz said.
Katz filed a police report and discovered via social media that the same woman attempted a similar scam at a card store in Westbury, New York, three days after her store fell victim.
“(This woman) is driving across the country with a fake ID,” Katz said.
And someone else’s credit card numbers too.
Katz said he also had trouble with his insurance company.
“It’s not stealing by their definition,” Katz said. “Goods must be stolen and leave the store without payment for it to be considered theft.”
If that’s not enough, Katz said a check for $5,700 “from what I thought was a really good customer” recently bounced.
That’s enough to make a card shop owner throw up his arms in disbelief.
“I’ve seen incredible fraud in just six months of having an official LLC and it’s no big deal if you trust people organically,” Katz said. “Bad Checks, Fake Items, Credit Card Fraud, Identity Theft, Rating Scams, etc.”
And there is one last problem. Since the $2,600 was withdrawn from Katz’s account, he could be subject to service charges for not maintaining a particular balance.
“Please don’t charge me a monthly service fee,” Katz wrote to the bank.