The Roswell Police Department held a meeting, Friday, at the Roswell Chamber of Commerce between the motel and hotel managers and the Hotel Interdiction Unit. The program, hosted by Sgt. Ty Sharpe, will be the first of many quarterly meetings designed to apprise local hotel owners and managers of trends in crimes.
The meetings are similar to the Loss Prevention Meetings for retailers that have been going for more than a year. It is an opportunity for interested parties to exchange information.
Six separate hotels were represented, including Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Hampton Inn and Budget Inn. The topic during the initial meeting was counterfeit bills and credit card fraud.
Sharpe passed out samples of different bills, representing different forms of manufacture, that had been seized in Roswell. He discussed how bills are passed.
He noted that bills can come in any denomination. “While in the past, the fakes were limited to $50s and $100s, where the counterfeiters can make the most money, now you can find them in ones, fives, tens and 20s,” Sharpe said.
He described the process used in making some of the bills by bleaching the originals and then changing the originals from $5 to $50. He also explained how to recognize these bills that will pass the “pen test” since they are made of government-issued paper.
“The texture of the paper feels wrong, or they can come pre-marked with pen, so you don’t think to do a pen test,” said Sharpe.
He told them how the holographic image of the president and the metallic strip should match. If the bill says $50, the strip should also say $50. “You won’t find a Washington hologram on a Franklin note,” said Sharpe.
He covered travelers’ checks and Moneygram fraud. Like legal tender, travelers’ checks should also display holograms and a company name. According to Sharpe, Target is one of the stores hardest hit by traveler check fraud. “Target got hit in 13 to 14 states. One guy was going from state to state and he got a lot of merchandise that way.”
Faked credit cards were displayed, along with clues on how to recognize the counterfeits. Sharpe presented samples of Walmart, Golddot and Visa cards and gave a brief demonstration of the process and the tricks used to avoid detection, such as biting the card and scratching the strip so it cannot be passed through the machines. “If someone tells you that his dog bit the card, check it again.”
Sharpe recommended hotel staff check the photo identification and report each crime. He described the nationwide tracking system that links a suspicious man in Florida to frauds in Roswell.
Each single act of fraud represents three separate felonies. Sharpe said: “The presenting of it, holding it and signing for it.”
Sharpe recommended hotel staff check the photo identification against the card if they have any doubts. He also urged hoteliers to report each crime rather than accept the loss. “We have nationwide tracking now. They can find a suspicious man in Florida and check him and find out that he has committed a fraud here in Roswell.”
The smuggling of drugs, drug manufacture and theft are issues that face local hotels. Sharpe showed photos of liquid methamphetamine that had been disguised to look like orange juice. “They may rent rooms to make them into a meth lab.”
Sharpe warned that 90 percent of all crimes committed—from drug manufacturers to hotel thefts—are neighborhood crimes, in other words committed by local criminals.
Representatives from Budget Inn and Hampton Inn told of a new scam that has made its way to Roswell. The scammer calls and asks for a particular room by number. When the customer picks up, the callers identify themselves as members of hotel staff and offer a 40 percent discount if they will charge their room to a credit card. The victim, then, is supposed to supply the credit card number. The two local hotels are informing people they check in about the scam and advise each lodger, who receives such a call, to come to the front desk before they give their number away to the scam artist.
For more information, contact Sgt. Ty Sharpe at the Roswell Police Department, 624-6770.