Young rap singer accused in card-cracking scheme

Ashley 'Young Ash' Bautista pleaded not guilty in NY courtroom

Jay MacDonald
Personal Finance Writer
Exploring the cultural impact of credit cards

Don't be fooled by card-cracking scam pitches

While countless up-and-coming hip-hop artists may dream of one day achieving their breakout moment live onstage at a major New York venue, they most certainly want to avoid the belly-flop debut by Bronx rapper Ashley “Young Ash” Bautista. 

The 22-year-old newbie took center stage in handcuffs last week at Manhattan Supreme Court to plead not guilty to grand larceny charges that she used her social media website to lure her fans into taking part in a credit card scam known as “card cracking.” 

Wazzat? In a typical card-cracking scheme, a social media come-on post offers fast cash just for sharing a valid credit, debit or prepaid card number. The cracker then crafts and deposits a forged check into your account, immediately withdraws the amount from an ATM and slips you part of it as a kickback.

When you then contact your bank as directed to report a lost, stolen or otherwise compromised card, the bank reimburses you for the stolen amount, thereby making you a criminal accomplice. 

Card-cracking and social media

According to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., social media snaps of Young Ash embracing wads of cash served to recruit online suckers for a six-member card-cracking team.

Last fall, the team allegedly stole at least $50,000 from residents of an Upper West Side luxury high-rise complex by photographing their rent checks and cracking them into quick-cash accounts provided by their online victims.   

In one online recruitment post that depicted a pile of $20 bills, Young Ash allegedly wrote, “If you from the Bronx with an active chase account and wanna make money the same day no scams you’ll see exactly what’s going on … hmuuuuuuu NEW YORK AREA ONLY.” 

“‘Card-cracking’ scammers with large followings on Snapchat and other platforms are luring people into their schemes by showing off designer merchandise, luxury cars and stacks of cash,” Vance Jr. explained. “Social media users who see these posts promising quick, fast money should know that they are scams.” 

See related: Meet hip-hop artist Dee-1, who raps about financial literacy

RushCard debacle

Rap fans may sense an aftertaste of déjà vu about the plight of Young Ash, whose run-in with card cracking echoes a similar case four years ago involving hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons and his signature prepaid RushCard.

Although Simmons intended the card to provide quicker access to funds for underbanked Americans, its problem-plagued 2015 rollout did quite the opposite, leaving tens of thousands of new users unable to buy food and other necessities for days while their funds were lost in transition.

The volume and range of complaints, including unwarranted fraud charges against cardholders, prompted the entrepreneur to pull prepaid RushCards from store shelves in 2016.

The following year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau weighed in, levying a $13 million penalty and fine against the card’s parent company, UniRush LLC, to help compensate cardholders.

The CFPB order was issued two days after Green Dot, a rival prepaid card company, announced it had agreed to acquire UniRush for $147 million plus annual payments based on financial performance. Green Dot indicated the deal was unaffected by the CFPB order.

Rapping about card cracking

Card cracking has become so commonplace online that it’s even earned its own musical tribute/warning, “For a Scammer,” by Brooklyn rap group Pop Out Boyz. (Note that the Boyz also have been charged with card cracking.)

“I’m cracking cards ’cause I’m a scammer…

Watch the money do a back flip,

Early morning up at Saks Fifth,

You see it, you want it, you have it.”

Sing along… and take heed.

 


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Updated: 08-20-2018