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Criminal Charges: Volume V

Jeremy Simon

I’d like to think these credit card crime story roundups do more than simply keep you entertained — assuming they do that. Hopefully, they also alert you to the scams crooks are using to victimize cardholders.

In this week’s edition of Criminal Charges, I put the spotlight on two types of credit card crime: One is a frequent (and easily preventable) form of straightforward card theft, while the other involves aluminum foil, ladders and gas station satellite dishes.

Bad idea: Leaving a credit card in your car
Criminals may often be dumb, but their victims aren’t always exactly geniuses, either.

Stealing credit cards from parked cars might not be the type of caper to inspire the next sequel to “Ocean’s 11.” Maybe that lack of complexity explains why a scan through nationwide news over the past week shows thieves have recently been busy stealing credit cards from automobiles in places like Austin, Texas; Houston; Akron, Ohio; Picayune, Miss.; Enid, Okla.; Naperville, Ill.; Tulsa, Okla.; Sahuarita, Ariz.; Polk County, Iowa; Pleasant Grove, Utah; Miami; Keller, Texas; East Rutherford, N.J.; and (just so Texans don’t feel underrepresented) Sherman, Texas.

After reading through all these stories, I’d like to offer readers two tips: No. 1 — always lock your car when you leave it unattended. And No. 2 — if, for some reason, you must leave a wallet and credit cards in your vehicle, at least keep them hidden, such as putting them in the glove box or trunk. Lesson over.

Aluminum foil + ladder = high-tech credit card scam?
Police in Ferndale, Mich., arrested a man who allegedly used aluminum foil and a ladder to try and stage a credit card scam.

Terrence Weathington of Detroit was “one of two men suspected of trying to climb onto the roof of a gas station to tamper with a credit card satellite dish using aluminum foil so they could ultimately steal gas,” says the Daily Tribune.

Weathington and his buddy were foiled when the gas station’s female clerk went outside to investigate. The suspect on the ladder jumped off and ran, while the other man continued to hold the ladder. Police showed up shortly thereafter and grabbed the “flummoxed” remaining suspect. “Police said they found evidence the men were interrupted before they could complete a credit card satellite scam,” including a full roll of aluminum foil and an empty roll in one of their cars, the Daily Tribune reports.

“Similar scams have occurred across the nation since early last year. Thieves use aluminum foil to interrupt the credit card data link on the satellite dish and use stolen or canceled credit cards at the pump,” the paper says. “The gas station doesn’t find out thieves have used bad credit cards for the gas until the data link is reestablished and the culprits are gone.”

While the necessary items are pretty basic, this scheme is rocket science compared to snatching unattended credit cars out of vehicles.

See related: Criminal Charges: Volume I, Criminal Charges: Volume II, Criminal Charges: Volume III, Criminal Charges: Volume IV

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Just as misuse of plastic can get you into trouble, wise use of a credit card can also set you free. My blog “ABC News producer uses corporate credit card to escape Denver jail” was featured in the Labor Day-themed edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance hosted by One Caveman’s Financial Journey.

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