KINGSPORT — Police have identified a suspect in a recent crime wave sweeping across Kingsport — one that victimizes individuals and businesses while eating the valuable time of investigators.
And with a few simple precautions, it’s 100 percent preventable.
Kingsport Police Department Detective Chris Tincher said the defense against credit card theft and fraud is twofold.
•Individuals: Do not leave your purse or wallet unattended.
•Retailers: Always ask for a customer’s ID when processing credit card transactions.
“If people do those things, we’re not going to have the crimes,” Tincher said.
Kingsport police suspect that over the past month one man has stolen at least six credit cards. Police say he has then used them to make big-ticket purchases such as LCD TVs, racking up more than 40 counts of fraud at local businesses.
Police said he obtained the cards by stealing purses from employee areas of local businesses during operating hours — Sally’s Beauty Supply, Tuesday Morning and Indian Path Medical Center.
The same man is also suspected of several recent Kingsport car burglaries in which purses were stolen. Tincher said the purses were left in plain view from the outside of the automobiles, and credit cards found within were then fraudulently used.
Police have identified the suspect — who has had prior run-ins with the law and been captured by surveillance equipment at many businesses — as Shannon Smith. His last known address was 1013 King St., Kingsport. He is driving a 1990 maroon Nissan pickup with the back glass window on the passenger side broken and covered in plastic.
While Tincher said individuals need to be more diligent in protecting their credit cards, he placed a heavy dose of the blame on retailers not asking for credit card users’ ID.
“Retailers are victimizing themselves because they will be the ones without the money,” Tincher said. “They’re victimizing the person who has to go through the problem of having their identity stolen and all the follow-up that occurs with that. And of course they’re victimizing the taxpayers, because the police department has to go out and investigate these crimes.”
If a customer refuses to provide their ID when using a credit card or says it’s not with them, Tincher urges businesses not to complete the transaction.
“If they do, that will prevent the crime,” Tincher said.
Anyone with information on Smith should call the KPD’s Criminal Investigation Division at 229-9429.