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Credit card crook operates half-off scam from prison

By , CardRatings contributor
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Where they're going, they won't bother anyone for a long, long time.

That seems to be the triumphant promise that all attorneys and sheriffs make when they arrest a particularly annoying criminal. But that doesn't always happen. Every once in awhile, even from prison, a criminal can still make a lot of trouble for innocent people. I bring that up because, unfortunately, it relates to our weekly round-up of odd and unusual credit card crimes.

Prisoner operates "half-off" scam from his cell

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has an astonishing story this week about Dimorio McDowell, a prisoner serving time for credit card fraud at Fort Dix federal prison in New Jersey. It seems that being put behind bars for stealing more than $268,000 on store credit cards in the mid-2000s did nothing to stop him from continuing his credit card crimes. In fact, McDowell became even more brazen.

According to the Dealer article, which is well worth Googling and checking out, every day, from 7 a.m. until midnight, using cell phones that he managed to get hold of, McDowell managed to build a credit card fraud syndicate that surely rivals any that exist outside of prison.

McDowell and his associates, a group of "shoppers" in Cleveland, had become known for getting their clients half-off deals. If you wanted a computer, a widescreen TV or whatever, you could buy through them for half the price. And I'm sure the people buying their products didn't suspect a thing. I mean, what's suspicious about discreetly buying your 55-inch TV at half price from some guy with a van at a gas station?

A wiretap showed that McDowell would call directory assistance looking for phone numbers and addresses of people in other states who had the same name as the shoppers who worked for him in Cleveland. Then he would call these people, pretending to be someone with a reason to be calling, like a cable TV employee. He would try to get a little information from them, like a birth date or part of a Social Security number. Once McDowell had anything remotely helpful, he would call a credit card company and act like a fellow employee or fraud investigator trying to get to the bottom of something.

What McDowell was looking for was a social security number. And once he had the full number, he could easily enough take out a credit card in that person's name and was well on his way to satisfying another client.

This week's winner in the "I have no shame" category is…

...Anthony Edward Jessup Sr., of Tucson, Arizona, for not only breaking into Tempe resident Karen Dory's house and stealing her credit cards, which is bad enough, but for also taking her late husband's urn, with his ashes inside, according to the East Valley Tribune.

True, he may have not known there were ashes inside, or what exactly he was swiping, and I suspect he didn't, because… well, I'm not saying I believe in ghosts, but I would think if they're out there, they probably wouldn't appreciate having their ashes taken. I can't help but like the idea that perhaps the late Mr. Dory had something to do with Jessup's arrest.

And who knows? He and a colleague (unidentified so far) stole the credit cards and ashes two months ago. He was stopped on a completely unrelated routine traffic stop, and the officer who stopped him reportedly picked up some suspicious information, which led to Jessup getting the cuffs put on him.

The Tribune reports that the urn and ashes will be safely returned to Mrs. Dory.

Lesson: Don't mess with Miley Cyrus

There's a pretty weird story this week about a 21-year-old Josh Holly, who pleaded guilty this week to computer fraud and is facing a possible 13 years in prison. And what does this have to do with Hannah Montana TV star and singer Miley Cyrus? Well, that's why I said it's kind of weird.

Holly was reportedly noticed by authorities after hacking into Cyrus's email account and distributing revealing pictures of her. But when authorities began looking at Holly, they discovered that he was attracted to many more celebrities.

When they searched his computer, to look for evidence that would nail him for hacking into Ms. Cyrus's account, they instead found information associated with 200 stolen credit cards. He had been hacking into various celebrities' websites on MySpace.com, so that any visitors to the site would receive spam. In fact, allegedly, a site selling cellphone ring tones paid Holly more than $100,000 to do this hacking.

Anyway, there is apparently a lesson here that we should all heed. For criminals, I suppose it's that if you're going to hack into a celebrity's website, and you're also trying to steal everyone's credit cards, stay away from Miley Cyrus. She doesn't take kindly to being hacked.

For the rest of us, there's something to be said for having your computer well protected from computer viruses and other malware. The Internet is a big place, and you never know who is out there lurking about, just hoping to get the chance to take a sneak peak into your computer and take everything from your credit card information to your Facebook password to your revealing photos.

Whether or not you're an attractive mega-watt celebrity.

 

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