Date Added: Jan. 30, 2006
Credit cards and debit have become a standard part of life these days. Their small size and ease of use make them more convenient than cash for even the the most routine transactions. But, the proliferation of cards as the de-facto form of payment for everything from value meals to fuel to home entertainment also has a dark side. Despite numerous security measures, at some point the card must leave your sight. And when it does, so this chain letter suggests, is when you should be the most vigilant.
CREDIT CARDS SCENE 1
A friend went to the local gym and placed his belongings in the locker. After the workout and a shower, he came out, saw the locker open, and thought to himself, "Funny, I thought I locked the locker. Hmmmmm." He dressed and just flipped the wallet to make sure all was in order. Everything looked okay - all cards were in place.
A few weeks later his credit card bill came - a whooping bill of $14.000! He called the credit card company and started yelling at them, saying that he did not make the transactions.
Customer care personnel verified that there was no mistake in the system and asked if his card had been stolen. "No," he said, but then took out his wallet, pulled out the credit card, and yep - you guessed it - a switch had been made. An expired similar credit card from the same bank was in the wallet.
The thief broke into his locker at the gym and switched cards. Verdict: The credit card issuer said since he did not report the card missing earlier, he would have to pay the amount owed to them. How much did he have to pay for items he did not buy? $9,000! Why were there no calls made to verify the amount swiped? Small amounts rarely trigger a "warning bell" with some credit card companies. It just so happens that all the small amounts added up to big one!
A man at a local restaurant paid for his meal with his credit card. The bill for the meal came, he signed it, and the waitress folded the receipt and passed the credit card along. Usually, he would just take it and place it in his wallet or pocket. Funny enough, though, he actually took a look at the card and, lo and behold, it was the expired card of another person.
He called the waitress and she looked perplexed. She took it back, apologized, and hurried back to the counter under the watchful eye of the man. All the waitress did while walking to the counter was wave the wrong expired card to the counter cashier, and the counter cashier immediately looked down and took out the real card. No exchange of words - nothing! She took it and came back to the man with an apology.
Verdict: Make sure the credit cards in your wallet at yours. Check the name on the card every time you sign for something and/or the card is taken away for even a short period of time. Many people just take back the credit card without even looking at it, thinking that it has to be theirs.
FOR YOUR OWN SAKE, DEVELOP THE HABIT OF CHECKING YOUR CREDIT CARD EACH TIME IT IS RETURNED TO YOU AFTER A TRANSACTION!
Yesterday I went into a pizza restaurant to pick up an order that I had called in. I paid by using my Visa Check Card which, of course, is linked directly to my checking account. The young man behind the counter took my card, swiped it, then laid it flat on the counter as he waited for the approval, which is pretty standard procedure.
While he waited, he picked up his cell phone and started dialing. I noticed the phone because it is the same model I have, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Then I heard a click that sounded like my phone sounds when I take a picture. He then gave me back my card but kept the phone in his hand as if he was still pressing buttons.
Meanwhile, I'm thinking: I wonder what he is taking a picture of, oblivious to what was really going on. It then dawned on me: the only thing there was my credit card, so now I'm paying close attention to what he is doing. He set his phone on the counter, leaving it open. About five seconds later, I heard the chime that tells you that the picture has been saved.
Now I'm standing there struggling with the fact that this boy just took a picture of my credit card. Yes, he played it off well, because had we not had the same kind of phone, I probably would never have known what happened. Needless to say, I immediately canceled that card as I was walking out of the pizza parlor.
All I am saying is, be aware of your surroundings at all times. Whenever you are using your credit cards, take caution and don't be careless. Notice who is standing near you and what they are doing when you use your card. Be aware of phones because many have a camera phone these days.
When you are in a restaurant and the waiter/waitress brings your card and receipt for you to sign, make sure you scratch the number off. Some restaurants are using only the last four digits, but a lot of them are still putting the whole thing on there.
I have already been a victim of credit card fraud and, believe me, it is not fun. The truth is that they can get you even when you are careful, but don't make it easy for them.
FORWARD THIS TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN THINK OF. LET'S GET THE WORD OUT!
A common attribute of urban legends is that they often describe completely plausible and believable scenarios, while providing very little information that could be used to verify that any of them ever have happened. They also tend to have an underlying theme - a deeper message than the advice that is overtly given. In those respects, the collection of "scenes" above easily fits the mold. They tell of events that occurred to "a friend," "a man" and an unidentified first person. No dates or hints of geography are available to even begin to verify them. The overt advice we're given is to always be aware of the whereabouts of our credit and debit cards, but the deeper message is that employees in service industries are criminals and shouldn't be trusted.
Any of the schemes described could happen and more than likely have - although it's hard to say how pervasive any of them are. The tales above suggest a high degree of organization to these crimes, and intimate a great deal of preparation on the part of the thieves. For a thief to successfully pull of the credit card switch in scenes one and two above, for example, he or she would have to have at his or her disposal a large collection of expired cards with a variety of designs to ensure that the dummy card approximates that of the mark, so as to go undetected. Yet, having a supply of such cards would be a liability to most thieves, since being found with them would certainly raise suspicions.
Most thefts, however, are crimes of opportunity. While television and the movies glamorize highly intricate and clever scams, in reality, most criminal acts are random, impromtu events precipitated by the convergence of the right circumstances at the right time.
One thing that struck me when I first read the scenarios above is that there is no mention of law enforcement personnel or any type of criminal investigation - despite the fact that the acts described are clearly criminal. The closest we get is the supposed call to the credit card company in which the customer service representative supposedly tells the cardholder that he is out of luck because he didn't report it sooner (which is as much marlarky as the claim that he would be responsible for the full amount of the fraudulent charges - federal law limits an individual's liability to $50). This underscores another theme of urban legendry present in the above: The law is ineffective and you're on your own against these ever-clever criminals.
Nonetheless, the advice to keep a close eye on your card is good, but there are many other safeguards the anonymous author of the above misses:
The chain letter above dazzles the reader with scenarios that seem, on the surface, to be quite common, but upon closer investigation, prove unnecessarily complicated for someone out to nab a quick buck. Break this chain.