Credit Card Crime: Expect the Unexpected

There's an interesting story in The Florida Times-Union about one Tommy Gregory who found that his debit card was declined at a Georgia car wash and then at his credit union's ATM. He knew he had available funds, and as it turned out, he soon learned that he was a victim of identity theft.

Why is this interesting?

Gregory is a County Sheriff.

Sheriff Caught Off Guard in Georgia

Having a credit card or debit card stolen can clearly happen to anyone. In Gregory's situation, according to the Times-Union, he learned that his debit card had been cloned, and that within 12 hours, someone had rung up almost $300 in charges in New York City and at a Walmart in Houston. After that, the bank shut down the card because it apparently seemed suspicious, Gregory being able to shop in New York City and in Houston within 12 hours when he lives in Woodbine, Florida.

Gregory was initially surprised to learn that he was a victim of identity theft because he hadn't let his credit card leave his sight. Or so he thought. But if that waiter, fast food clerk or whoever is dishonest and manages to run your card through a device called a skimmer, they can take that information and put it on a counterfeit card. And that apparently is what happened to Gregory.

Credit card cloning crew nabbed in Maine

That happens quite a bit (that is, anecdotally; statistically speaking, most people around the country aren't getting their credit card data stolen). Police recently arrested three New Yorkers in Maine for credit card identity theft. The authorities found 165 fake credit cards in a hotel room where they had holed up--and most of these 165 fake cards were issued to the same name.

And in case you're wondering, you aren't liable for more than $50 in charges if your credit card is stolen; if your debit card is, and you report it within two business days, you aren't liable for more than $50 as well; if you take longer, you could be on the hook for $500. More than 60 days, and you could lose it all, though it's hard to imagine one's checking account could be cleaned out, and anyone not notice that for more than a month. If that's the case, that person either has been stuck on a deserted island for awhile, or has a much more financially comfortable life than I do.

Newsboy Makes News in Maryland

But the story I find really surprising is that of a Germantown, Maryland newspaper delivery guy who was recently arrested for credit card theft. By surprising, I mean, people still get their newspapers delivered?

(Sorry, cheap shot. Plus, I kid. I'm a former Cincinnati Post features reporter and a proud Cincinnati Enquirer subscriber, which is why this really is a chilling story. I mean, c'mon, now we can't trust our newspaper carriers?)

Anyway, this guy in Germantown, one Andre L. Tyler, was arrested on May 19 for stealing mail out of mail boxes. He would deliver the mail late Wednesday and early Thursday mornings and found mail that had been left in the box overnight. He is accused of sorting through the mail and keeping anything valuable, like packages and credit cards and dumping the rest.

He is believed to have racked up at least $2,000 in charges on one of his former customer's accounts. This woman discovered the charges on her account and mentioned it to a neighbor, who revealed that the same thing had happened to her.

Among other things, the police found a Best Buy rewards card, two bank statements, a car wash token and five credit cards. These were replacement cards, according to The Gazette, the paper for Gaithersburg, Maryland, and they were sent to customers who weren't necessarily expecting them to arrive in the mail.

Word to the wise

So there is a good lesson for everyone, whether you have a credit card or not. If you have a mailbox, try to remember to get your mail before you go to bed. Otherwise, you never know who may be lurking out there, hoping to get your credit cards, maybe that tin of homemade brownies your grandmother has sent you, or good grief, even your car wash tokens.

But the joke is on the guy in Maryland, who probably thought he was just engaging in some simple petty crime. Stealing from a mailbox is considered mail fraud, and now the federal investigators are involved.

The original article can be found at card crime: Expect the unexpected