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Crime Trackers: Thieves are using QR codes to purchase items in your name

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TUCSON -

Thieves are upping the ante. They are applying for virtual credit on their computers, but using your name.

It's the first case of its kind in Pima County. 

It is an ingenious way of using quick response codes, or QR codes. Thieves are now tapping into the codes and stealing merchandise from stores.

“I actually thought it never could happen, especially to me. I don't make any money,” said one victim who asked to remain anonymous. “It's so scary  because I don't put my social security number on anything like at the doctor's office. I don't write it on any forms.”

Marana police said someone got her personal information, input it into a computer and downloaded the QR code app.

“You just scan it in as your credit card and it automatically adds or deducts from the line of credit,” said Det. Mike Torres.

Marana police are investigating how the thieves got her information, but they found her information in a ledger last month in a vehicle 34-year-old Jacob Aguilar was in.

“Inside the ledgers, when you start going through them, there were at least 42 different persons with social security numbers, dates of birth [and] names. Some had addresses,” said Torres.

He said Aguilar and a female had just left the Express store at the premium outlet mall, after purchasing nearly $1,000 worth of clothing using the QR code on his cell phone. Employees called police.

“Express put out an internal kind of BOLO amongst themselves to be on the lookout for this couple that paid with the phone,” said Torres.

Torres said employees called 911 after a victim called the store to dispute an $800 charge from Express. The victim also claimed she received a bill from Crate and Barrel for buying furniture.

Identical purchases were made using the identity of the victim News 4 Tucson interviewed. She said she had never shopped at Express, nor at Crate and Barrel. 

“A few of the ledgers even had, underneath the people's names, the lines of credit they had opened up at Crate and Barrel or Express,” said Torres.

The 34-year-old Aguilar was arrested and charged with the following.

- two charges of identity theft

- possession of access device (computer tampering)

- theft of a credit card

- possession of drug paraphernalia

The victim said she works three jobs. She hopes she is not responsible for paying what was stolen. She said there is no way she can do that. She is also concerned about filing her income tax. She is worried the thieves may have used her social security number and already filed.

While using the QR code is fast and convenient, make sure to check your credit card statements,  your credit report and also your bank statement, just to make sure this does not get in the wrong hands.

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