Beware Prepaid Card Scams and the Bluetooth Bandit

One nice, unexpected bonus about researching credit card crime has been the lessons one picks up. In fact, both would-be victims and criminals can learn a thing or two by what's been going on in the news lately. Not sure what I mean? Well, here's what all people--both the good guys and the bad--can learn from the latest in credit card thievery.

The lesson for would-be crooks: If you're annoyed at your ex, don't steal her credit card. And certainly don't tell her you're stealing it.

The crime: In Bracebridge, Ont., James Hynes, 49, was apparently irked because his ex-partner had hidden the keys to his truck. So Hynes took her credit card from her purse, showed it to her through the window and then left. Even more stupid, Hynes then proceeded to take out a cash advance of $2,000 with the card and spent $960 of it before the police found him.

He seems to have gotten off pretty lucky, all things considered. He wound up getting a total of 28 days in the slammer.

The lesson for potential crime victims: If you win a prize, but it involves you buying a prepaid credit card, you haven't actually won a prize.

The crime: In Eagle River, Wis., police have been warning residents about a con involving "Green Dot" credit cards. People have been receiving phone calls and learning that they've won a huge amount of money or a car, and all they have to do is go out and buy a Green Dot credit card. Seems that the prize organization can give out a car or, say, a $30,000 cash prize, but they can't quite swing the delivery expenses.

So the victim is asked to buy a Green Dot prepaid credit card, with enough money on it to cover delivery expenses, and then they're asked to call the company back. Once they do, and they read the numbers off the credit card, the con artist has a credit card in the victim's name. Ka-ching!

True, it's a prepaid card, which presumably doesn't have all that much money on it, but if the con artist can use that credit card to access the owner's social security number or the bank account that it's linked to, you can imagine the mischief and hilarity that will later ensue.

The lesson for would-be crooks: If you're going to start a business, don't stiff your employees - or steal from your customers.

The crime: When Alia Christine Brost, 35, and Roberto Renteria Jr., 33, opened a restaurant and catering business in Bakersfield, Calif., in August 2009, it apparently was a perfectly legitimate business, although they had trouble from the start, given that in the first month, employees quit, complaining to police that they hadn't been paid.

Jerking your employees around is unethical and immoral, but if one wants to give Brost and Renteria the benefit of the doubt, it's easy to excuse them as incompetent and not crooks. But stealing from customers - that gets a little harder.

And, in fact, a Fresno federal grand jury indicted them this week for just that.

Seems that instead of, oh, I don't know, applying for their own small business credit card, the couple took some of their customers' credit cards and charged them for their meal like any good entrepreneur should but then later made extra purchases for much larger amounts.

Well, that's one way to fund a business.

The lesson for would-be crime victims: If you're shopping in the San Francisco area, trust no one, especially a dapper looking businessman in a suit.

The crime: This particular crook has been ripping people off since at least the summer of 2010, but he has been getting more press lately, because he has recently struck again.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, the Bluetooth Bandit is "described as a black man in his 40s standing between 5 feet, 8 inches and 5 feet, 11 inches. He weighs between 160 and 175 pounds and has short hair."

The bandit wears a Bluetooth headset and looks like your everyday businessman on the go, which, of course, is the problem. He doesn't look like a crook.

Making matters worse for the victim, the bandit is believed to have half a dozen accomplices ranging in age from the 20s to the 60s. They distract the victim, while the bandit deftly removes the victim's wallet--usually from her purse. And this isn't happening at discount stores. The Bluetooth Bandit aims for people shopping at places like Neiman Marcus, Costco and Nordstrom, among other stores.

Fortunately, there is one other clue beyond the man's nondescript description. He is believed, the authorities have said, to be pigeon-toed. So in addition to keeping tabs on your credit cards at all times, keep an eye out for someone who acts suspiciously, wears a Bluetooth headset and walks a little goofy.

The original article can be found at Prepaid Card Scams and the Bluetooth Bandit