WASHINGTON -- There's a sophisticated ploy fueling crime sprees in the District.
It is called the black market metro card ring. Dcw50’s Jasmine Norwood fell victim and then worked to get information about how to prevent others from making some of the same mistakes that lead her to being targeted.
On July 26, smoke billowed into the air, flames shot through the roof of an apartment building in Northwest.
DCW50 rushed to the 1300 block of 12th Street, found a place to park and DCw50 reporter Jasmine Norwood and photojournalist Eli Gardner walked a couple blocks to get closer to the burning building.
However, in haste, Norwood accidentally left her bag in plain sight in the car.
After shooting video and interviews, the reporter, photographer duo made their way back to the car.
Upon arrival they found the passenger side window bashed in, and Norwood’s bag, with her credit and debit cards, drivers license, and other essentials, gone.
The reporter immediately called 9-1-1.
However, in the few minutes she was on the phone with police, her bank account was already taking hits.
Turns out, after breaking into the car and stealing Norwood’s “reporter bag”, the thieves then made their way to the closest metro station, where they used her debit cards to put hundreds of dollars on a SmartTrip card.
Metropolitan Police said they had seen this countless times before. People stealing purses and wallets, then putting large amounts of money on SmartTrip cards, to then use them or sell them for cash.
“It is all about timeliness,” explained Dustin Sternbeck, spokesperson for MPD. Sternbeck said loading money on Smart Trip cards is a fast and easy way for thieves to empty your accounts before you get a chance to call police or cancel your cards.
“The thieves they know that is one of the first actions you’re going to take once you notice your stuff is gone so the sooner that you can cancel those cards the better chance that they are not stealing your identity or using your hard earned money,” Sternbeck told Norwood in an interview a few weeks after she fell victim to a smash and grab.
If someone steals from you, and there is no longer a threat to you or your safety because the thief is gone, officers say you should call your bank and credit card companies first to put a hold on your account or cancel your cards all together, then call police to file a report.
And always, take all of your belongings with you, especially when parking in a public area.