A New Jersey sports card shop owner is cautioning other retailers to be aware of a credit card scam that cost him nearly $2,600 last week.
It is a scam that has allegedly occurred in several states. And while it takes some moxie to pull it off, when 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. His shop was victimized, and he said he is having a difficult time 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 went into the collectibles business after losing his job of 32 years toward the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a post-COVID pivot,” said Katz, who has also worked in sports radio and handled producing duties at WNBC Radio and WCBS Radio in New York.
On Nov. 6, he said a woman came into the shop and bought some items, including some high-end boxes of cards. The woman used numbers from two different credit cards (MasterCard and American Express) to buy the items. The card numbers were entered onto a Countertop A80 terminal that Katz bought from Bank of America.
Katz was attending a card show in the metropolitan New York area at the time, and a 21-year-old intern manning the store handled the transaction.
The woman said she did not 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 photograph that matched the customer. Surveillance cameras at the shop also matched the woman making the transaction with the photo on the driver’s license she presented.
“She’s a slick person,” Katz said.
The woman also gave the intern a telephone number that had a 917 area code, which is used for all cellphones in the five boroughs of New York City.
“She also questioned our ‘desire to sell to someone like her,’” Katz said. “She threatened my intern.”
The intern ran the card numbers on a Countertop A80 machine, which handles point-of-sale transactions and allows buyers and sellers to manually input credit card numbers.
According to transaction receipts that Katz provided to authorities and Sports Collectors Daily, the first transaction was run at 12:07 PM. A MasterCard was used to purchase $1,300 worth of cards. Eight minutes later, the woman used an American Express card to buy an additional $1,284 worth of product.
Some of the product the woman bought included a Mosaic basketball Mega box, a Donruss Elite football Hobby box, two Revolution basketball hobby boxes, two Panini NBA Prizm basketball Mega boxes and four Prizm basketball Hobby Lite Mega boxes.
The transactions were approved and everything seemed fine until Nov. 12.
“The money sits there for six days until Saturday when I get a notice that the charge was a fraud and they removed the money from my account to pay back the real owner of the card,” Katz said. “When I called Bank of America, the money was gone in a blink.”
Katz claims that Bank of America refused to “back up” manual authorization transactions after selling him the terminal for $499.
“If I knew that you wouldn’t back up your own manual authorization, then I would never 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 was not getting a sympathetic response from the bank.
“My Bank of America merchandiser told me, ‘I’m not gonna lie to you. But that’s the cost of doing business,’” Katz said.
Katz did file a police report and discovered through social media that the same woman attempted a similar scam at a card shop in Westbury, New York, three days after his shop was victimized.
“(This woman) is driving around the country with a fake ID,” Katz said.
And someone else’s credit card numbers, too.
Katz said he has also been having issues with his insurance company.
“It’s not theft by their definition,” Katz said. “Goods have to be stolen and leave the store with no payment for it to be considered theft.”
If that is not enough, Katz said a $5,700 check “from what I thought was a really good customer” recently bounced.
It’s enough to make a card shop owner throw his hands up in disbelief.
“I have seen unbelievable fraud in only six months of having an official LLC and this is no business to be in if you organically trust people,” Katz said. “Bounced checks, fake items, credit card fraud, ID theft, the grading scams, etc.”
And there is one final annoyance. Because the $2,600 was removed from Katz’s account, he could be subject to a service charge for not maintaining a particular balance.
“Please do not charge me a monthly service fee,” Katz wrote to the bank.