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Credit card theft on the increase here, nationwide

An Internet company called a Corydon couple to follow up on their order for snowboards and bindings.
The problem? Neither the husband nor the wife are goofy footed. In fact, they don’t know which foot they are because they don’t snowboard.
But the phone call tipped them off that they were the victims of credit card fraud, said Corydon Marshal Todd Stinson.
After contacting the company that issued their credit card, the couple called the police.
Identity deception, consumer fraud, credit card theft ‘ regardless of what it’s called ‘ is ‘one of the fastest growing crimes in America,’ said Det. Capt. Richard Bauman of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept.
MasterCard International says account takeover fraud has risen 369 percent since 1995. It’s one of the fastest growing crimes, but it’s also one of the more difficult crimes to combat.
‘Persons committing the crime think it’s a victimless crime, but it really isn’t,’ Bauman said. ‘The credit card companies are the ones who end up paying.’
And they, in turn, pass their losses on to consumers through higher credit terms and other fees.
And for the victims, ‘it’s a long, drawn-out process,’ taking several months or even longer, to get their credit straightened out, said Bauman, who is scheduled to attend a consumer fraud seminar in a few weeks.
It often takes law enforcement a while to track down the criminals.
In the case of the Corydon couple, Stinson learned that Indiana State Police Trooper David Cleek was investigating two similar cases in Harrison County. The officers compared the victims’ bank statements.
‘We found one thing in common: charges at Pizza Hut,’ Stinson said. ‘Once we established that, we had a pattern.’
The Corydon couple had charged a pizza that was delivered to their home on Oct. 18, but they didn’t learn of the extra purchase ‘ the items for fun in the snow ‘ until mid-December.
It then took time to determine which Pizza Hut employee was using other people’s credit card numbers to purchase merchandise. But eventually police had enough information to question Cole R. Lone, 19, of Corydon, a delivery driver for Pizza Hut.
‘(Lone) changed his hair color and style a lot, and he also drove different cars,’ Stinson said, which meant customers were not giving the exact same description of their delivery driver.
Apparently, Lone obtained people’s credit card numbers when customers of the Corydon eatery charged their delivered order to their credit card account.
Stinson said Pizza Hut drivers had to ‘swipe’ the credit cards with old-fashioned machines that imprinted the card’s entire number onto a paper form that contains carbon copies.
‘Swiping the cards left (Lone) with one copy of the credit card numbers,’ Stinson said.
Not only did he have their account number, Lone had his victim’s home address. When placing orders, using a public computer terminal rather than a home computer, Lone apparently requested that his purchases be shipped to an address that was different from the billing address. Stinson said Lone would give the address of a vacant dwelling, then pick up the packages after they were delivered.
Once police believed they had sufficient proof that Lone was their suspect, they asked him to come to the Harrison County Justice Center for questioning.
‘He did and he confessed’ at that time, Stinson said.
Lone was arrested March 13, after attempting to flee from police, and was initially charged with identity deception, credit card fraud and theft.
Stinson said Sgt. Keith Williams of the Salem Police Dept. was especially helpful with making the arrest.
Williams, who was recommended for his computer expertise, came to Corydon and showed Stinson what needed to be done to help link Lone with the crime.
‘He was able to tell me what I needed to do,’ Stinson said.
Cleek said he worked with two other Corydon couples who were victims of Lone. Rather than extra charges to their credit card accounts, purchases were being made with their bank debit card.
‘They noticed money was missing from their (bank) accounts,’ the trooper said.
Cleek urged people to be more careful where they use their debit and credit cards.
‘Really keep track of your bank account,’ he said, checking statements and verifying purchases.
With Cleek’s two cases, he said it appeared Lone was ordering merchandise, such as music CDs, ‘a little bit at a time’ because with debit cards, the criminal doesn’t know how much his victim has in their account.
Bauman said that another way criminals use person’s credit or debit cards is to ‘double swipe’ them. In that scenario, the criminal is charging the consumer’s actual purchase plus a second purchase of the same amount. He said the criminal takes the money out of the cash register for the second charge, giving himself or herself the cash; the employer doesn’t have any money missing because it has been replaced with the customer’s charge, so it’s only when the customer questions the second charge on their statement that it’s caught.
Cleek said crime involving credit and debit cards is ‘really hard’ to solve. ‘There’s more probably going on … even in Harrison County … and people are not aware of it,’ he said.
One option to help protect yourself from becoming a victim, the trooper said, is to make purchases with cash.
‘If I can use cash, I do,’ Cleek said.
Bauman reminds consumers who do use their cards to pick up all copies of the receipts; some businesses still use systems that put the entire account number on the receipt.
‘If the numbers are on the receipt, make sure the merchant gets it,’ Bauman said. ‘Don’t leave it just laying around.’
Credit card users can take steps to protect against fraud
Credit card fraud and identity theft is on the rise, making it increasingly necessary to protect your credit.
In 1998, then-President Bill Clinton signed a federal law that closed gaps against identity theft. The Identity Theft and Assumptions Deterrence Act also makes the theft of personal information, rather than just theft of documents, a crime.
Consumers should check with financial institutions on their policy about fraud protection. Some offer programs that allow credit card companies to help protect consumers before a criminal can charge numerous unauthorized purchases. The system ‘flags’ transactions that don’t match the individual’s usual purchases or if a large purchase is made.
Bank of America offers several common sense measures to protect against fraudulent activity and lessen the costs of credit fraud. They include:
* Reduce the number of cards you use, treating them like cash. Don’t carry all of them at the same time. Leave the ones you don’t need at the time in a safe location, along with your Social Security card.
* Call the credit card’s customer service number immediately if your credit card bill is late.
* Review the monthly statement to ensure the accuracy of the listed charges. Report any billing errors, as well as lost or stolen cards, at once.
* Sign any new cards you receive at once.
* Keep a list of all credit cards, their account numbers and expiration dates to allow quick notification in case of theft or loss.
* Unless you initiated the call, never give a card number or other personal information over the phone.
* Destroy preapproved credit card offers, receipts, copies of airline tickets, itineraries and any other paperwork that displays your credit card information before disposing of them.
It is also recommended that you check your credit report at least once a year. This can be done by monitoring services such as CreditCheck Monitoring Service.
If you are a victim of identity theft, besides contacting law enforcement, call the FedeCredit card users
can take steps to
protect against fraud
Credit card fraud and identity theft is on the rise, making it increasingly necessary to protect your credit.
In 1998, then-President Bill Clinton signed a federal law that closed gaps against identity theft. The Identity Theft and Assumptions Deterrence Act also makes the theft of personal information, rather than just theft of documents, a crime.
Consumers should check with financial institutions on their policy about fraud protection. Some offer programs that allow credit card companies to help protect consumers before a criminal can charge numerous unauthorized purchases. The system ‘flags’ transactions that don’t match the individual’s usual purchases or if a large purchase is made.
Bank of America offers several common sense measures to protect against fraudulent activity and lessen the costs of credit fraud. They include:
* Reduce the number of cards you use, treating them like cash. Don’t carry all of them at the same time. Leave the ones you don’t need at the time in a safe location, along with your Social Security card.
* Call the credit card’s customer service number immediately if your credit card bill is late.
* Review the monthly statement to ensure the accuracy of the listed charges. Report any billing errors, as well as lost or stolen cards, at once.
* Sign any new cards you receive at once.
* Keep a list of all credit cards, their account numbers and expiration dates to allow quick notification in case of theft or loss.
* Unless you initiated the call, never give a card number or other personal information over the phone.
* Destroy preapproved credit card offers, receipts, copies of airline tickets, itineraries and any other paperwork that displays your credit card information before disposing of them.
It is also recommended that you check your credit report at least once a year. This can be done by monitoring services such as CreditCheck Monitoring Service.
If you are a victim of identity theft, besides contacting law enforcement, call the Federal Trade Commission’s complaint center at 1-202-FTC-HELP or by e-mail at www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.htm.

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