Living with credit, Protecting yourself

All it takes to commit fraud is a little tape

We’ve all done it — ripped up an unwanted credit card application into teeny, tiny pieces and thrown it away. We assume no one will ever take the time to reassemble those pieces and, further, that no credit card issuer will ever accept such a thing — since it just screams, “Fraud!”

We overestimate. Blogger Rob Cockerham proved that even a seemingly destroyed application may resurface and can potentially cause some nasty financial problems.

torn credit card applicationRob Cockerham holds the torn pieces of his credit card application before piecing them back together.
Photo courtesy of Rob Cockerham

Rob decided to test the effectiveness of his usual document-destroying method after hearing a story about a company issuing a credit card in response to a fraudulent application that had been shredded and reconstructed. Rob found a Chase MasterCard application and ripped it up, as he does with other unwanted credit card applications sent to his home. However, this time, he pieced together the fragments with tape.

It took Rob 30 minutes to resuscitate those torn bits.

He mailed the refurbished application to Chase. He made the request even more questionable by asking that the credit card be sent to a different address (his father’s) with a different phone number — his cell number.

A few weeks later, a new card issued in Rob’s name arrived at his father’s address. Using his cell phone, he quickly activated the card.

“I couldn’t believe it at first,” Rob said. “To me the most incredible thing was that they didn’t bother calling first to see if I had really sent the card in. They have all of my phone numbers.”

Rob Cockerham poses with credit cardRob Cockerham shows the credit card he received after tearing up, taping and then sending
in a credit card application.
Photo courtesy of Rob Cockerham

A Chase spokesman told MSNBC that damaged applications are usually transferred into electronic databases by machine, meaning a live person may not have seen the taped-up application. I wish Chase would send me one of those miracle machines that can open envelopes, unfold paper, place documents onto a scanner and upload them — all without human assistance. I bet that ingenious contraption could do my homework, too!  The spokesman also said Rob’s request also might not have triggered fraud alerts because he used an address and phone number that were still somewhat connected to him.

Rob is now more careful when disposing of his financial information and encourages others to be more mindful, too.

“I bought a shredder,” Rob said. “It’s loud, and it is a pain to add another garbage bin to my office, but I think I’ve proved that just tearing isn’t good enough. Those applications are like a ticking time bomb. You’ve got to defuse them!”

Rob details this adventure and others on his Web site,

See related: Beware of fake grandkids calling for money, Think you can’t use that not-yet-activated card? Think again.

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