Originally created 01/18/00

Police seek suspect in fraud case



AIKEN -- Police are looking for a Salley woman who, while working as a saleswoman at a local automobile dealership, used customers' credit information to apply for credit cards off the Internet, authorities said Monday.

Shannon Ramos, 23, of Salley, victimized at least 20 people, using their information to have new credit cards sent to her address, said Investigator David Savage of the Aiken Department of Public Safety.

When the cards arrived in the victims' names, they were used for purchases from Dillard's, money withdrawls from automated teller machines and ordering merchandise -- pet supplies, hair removal supplies and a vacuum cleaner -- over the Internet, the investigator said. More than $1,000 was charged on at least two cards, but police believe they may turn up more credit card charges.

Ms. Ramos was charged Friday with two counts of financial transaction card fraud and was released after meeting bond requirements. She was supposed to meet with authorities Monday to be served with 18 additional warrants, but she never showed.

Police unraveled the scam in December when one of the victims called them, reporting that Ms. Ramos had obtained a credit card under the victim's name but with Ms. Ramos listed as a joint user.

Ms. Ramos originally had mail sent to her home address on the 5300 block of Wagener Road in Salley. Later, she allegedly went to the Aiken Post Office and opened Box 190, where mail and packages were sent. When investigators discovered the scam, United States Postal Inspector Dan Overton stopped shipments to the post office box, Investigator Savage said.

Investigators declined to identify the automobile dealership where the woman worked, but they said she was only employed for three to four weeks. While there, she went into old files and copied down personal information, including Social Security numbers, Investigator Savage said.

There is no sure-fire way to prevent credit card fraud, police said.

"If you use a credit card, there is a very small percentage, but a percentage, that you will become a victim of credit card fraud," said fraud Investigator Wendell Hall.

Credit card users should keep track of monthly statements and check credit card bills to help prevent fraud, he said.

Police are asking anyone with information on Ms. Ramos' whereabouts to call (803) 642-7620.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.