The Sacramento County Sheriff's Office is warning the public about a disturbing and “very sophisticated” gift card scam that is impacting the nation and abroad.
The Sheriff's Office told FOX News Digital this week that it conducted a major retail theft operation at big box stores across the county, resulting in 285 felony and misdemeanor arrests in seven days.
Among those arrested was a Chinese national who was found to be in possession of thousands of Target and Apple gift cards.
“During a recent retail theft operation Bad Elf, detectives observed a person later identified as Ningning Sun acting suspiciously near gift cards in the payment aisle of a Target store in Sacramento. ” the sheriff's office said in a press release Wednesday.
Investigators saw Sun take all the gift cards from a rack at a Target store and put them inside his jacket, the office said.
The suspect then replaced the missing cards with “another seemingly identical set,” authorities said.
Sheriff's Office agents chased the suspect outdoors, and recently released footage shows detectives surrounding him in an attempt to arrest him.
“This guy went wild like a piñata at a kid's birthday party and had gift cards spilling out of his jacket,” Sacramento County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Amar Gandhi told Fox News Digital by phone this week. Told.
After the arrest, detectives went to Sun's car and found thousands of Apple and Target gift cards.
Gandhi said the suspects would obtain legitimate gift cards from store shelves and “surgically remove” the adhesive covering the card's barcode.
He then allegedly recorded the PIN, rehid the barcode with adhesive and returned the card to the store shelf.
“[The] The investigation revealed that Sun participated in a scam in which gift cards were tampered with and the barcode was scanned while money was loaded on the gift card to steal money. Victims are completely unaware that it is happening, and funds are often siphoned off to offshore accounts within seconds. “Their investigation revealed that the operation spanned all of California and several areas across the country,” the press release states.
Once the tampered gift cards are returned to the shelves, unsuspecting shoppers purchase one of the cards and load funds onto it.
But the money will soon be transferred to a bank account, in this case likely in China, Gandhi said.
“Are you going to confront someone who gave you a $0 gift card? No, that's rude. And you're going to sit there and be fat and stupid and happy and think, 'Oh, who am I? “They think, 'I did something good for them,' but they don't even realize that their money is gone,” he said.
The agency said it had never seen a crime like this before and said Sun was likely involved in a large-scale gift card operation.
The Sheriff's Office is asking the public to come forward with tips regarding this incident.
Shoppers were warned to look out for “signs of tampering, especially scratches or scratches near the barcode” when purchasing gift cards.
The Sacramento County Sheriff's Office is reminding residents to use caution when purchasing physical gift cards from retailers. “These operations are so sophisticated that tampering with gift cards is often virtually undetectable, even to the trained eye.
“Detectives suspect that Sun carried out this activity at a number of stores and are asking for the public's help in potentially linking him to other crimes.”
Authorities are still investigating Sun and his alleged crimes.
Retail theft crimes in California have continued to increase in recent years. Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper said in an interview with Fox News Digital last month that crime is “well above crisis level” and placed the blame on Proposition 47.
Voters approved Proposition 47 through a ballot initiative in 2014, lowering the shoplifting charge for thefts of $950 or less from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Cooper is calling for a new ballot initiative to change California laws that “encourage criminal activity.”
“Retailers need to step up and make in-store safety a top priority. Bad laws that encourage criminal activity need to change, and only voters can make that happen. Look at the poll. “If we put it on the ballot, it will pass overwhelmingly. We encourage retailers to step up and fund this effort,” Cooper said this week, spotlighting Operation Bad Elf. I mentioned it in the video I guessed.