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Apple, Best Buy, and Macy's scammed

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A 22-year-old Oregon man has been sentenced to 18 months probation for stealing $6,000 worth of merchandise using gift card–cloning gear he found online.

Sealtiel Chacon Zepeda was standing in the check-out line at a Fred Meyer store in Washington County when he realized it probably wouldn't be too hard to hack the the magnetic strips used to store money on the cards, OregonLive.com reports. With 20 hours of online research, he found the software, which allowed him to electronically query a card's balance many times each day. He also bought a magnetic card reader.

Zepeda would then steal blank cards on display for purchase, scan them into his reader and then return them to the store. When they were purchased and activated by customers, the software alerted him to that fact. He would then transfer the data to a blank card.

Police eventually tracked him down by tracing his IP address and store surveillance cameras. He was caught with about 1,000 stolen gift cards. He ran the scam at numerous stores including Apple's, Best Buy, and Macy's. Fred Meyer was the only retailer that was willing to work with authorities. He's by no means the only person prosecuted for gift-card cloning. ®

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