In most cases, college/university students and powerful bank executives would be said to have the upper hand over kids on the streets. That wasn’t the case in the Midwest last year, where hustlers from Chicago and surrounding areas raped financial entities like Citibank, US Bank, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America, to the tune of $11.6M. Gullible college students were used as pawns. The criminal phenomenon known as “cracking cards,” is a rather new hustle that kids from the slums have utilized for this caper. However, a myriad of young men have been arrested and federally charged for bank fraud for cracking cards. They are now facing serious time and more.
What is cracking cards, exactly? Well, the perpetrators of the scam approach aloof people who may be in need of money like single parents. The most common targets were college students at area institutions such as Michigan State and Northern Illinois University. Suckers were usually found on social media, after they responded to social media ads on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube, promising an easy payday or even scholarships. Some would send a fresh-faced mole into college dorms with a story about how they lost their card and needed cash a check, promising anyone that would help payment. The scammers would get these unsuspecting folks to agree to come up off their debit cards and PIN numbers. Once in possession of this information, the scammer would take a con artist-created counterfeit check for thousands of dollars and deposit it into the bank account via smartphones or other mobile devices. Once the checks cleared, they’d immediately withdraw all of the money. The banks usually didn’t know they’d been hit until the money was taken out. The thefts averaged $2,500.
26-year-old Chicago rapper, Bandman Kevo (government name Kevin Ford) and his RACK Boyz comrades were among the biggest cracking cards offenders. In their videos, the RACK Boyz would rock iced out jewelry and flaunt pricey whips whilst counting wads of cash to entice more feeble-minded viewers to want to get in on the balling. They bragged about cracking cards in their rhymes, as well. Kevo stood out more, because instead of the RACK Boyz tees that others were wearing, he’d be in Gucci and showing off the Maserati that he owned. He even lived in a $4,000-a-month apartment in the well-to-do Chicago Loop. When he got someone to bite the bait, he’d hit them with a message on Facebook saying something like:
“You don’t know me but we can make some cash together my brother works at citi bank and he puts money on my account so I could do u a favor and have him put money on your account. If u wanna make 1900 all u would have to do is open up a citi bank account n they will give u a temp card we would be able to do it the next day from the time u get the cards … !!! u can do this every week No BS! hit me back asap!!”
The FBI, Cook County state attorney’s office and Chicago PD collaborated on a three-year investigation into the cracking cards scheme. The arrests started last year with a man named Christopher Cain, who stole $185,000 in his cracking cards career. He received a lenient five-year sentence for his cooperation with authorities. Later that Fall, Kevo and 29 others were brought in on federal bank fraud charges. 16 of them faced 30 years in prison and a $1M fine each. None of the “victims” who gave up access to their bank accounts in exchange for potential pay were charged.
What’s the lesson? Don’t just give a stranger your debit cards and bank information. Furthermore, the adage, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” rings true. Don’t let anyone sell you a dream.