In the classic 1989 movie "Parenthood," Keanu Reeve's character makes the point that "you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car--hell, you even need a license to fish. But they'll let anyone be a father."
That was slightly edited, for anyone who doesn't like salty language. Anyhoo…truer words were never spoken, as you'll see in our first story in this week's look at odd credit card crimes.
Worst role model ever
In Houston, three women have been charged with using a young boy to help them steal an elderly couple's credit cards. According to Click2Houston.com on Sep. 15, police accuse Ginger Frank, 29, of using her five-year-old son as a prop to help her in her life of crime. If all went down as they and the victims say, Frank and her son knocked on the elderly couple's front door and said that they needed help finding the boy's lost cat, and that they needed to look in their back yard for it.
So probably being kind and helpful sorts of people, the elderly couple gave them the go-ahead, and of course, they went along with them to the backyard to look.
Shortly after, the mom told the couple that the boy needed to use the restroom. The couple said that that was fine, and then the boy soon after reported that he saw a spider in the bathroom and that he needed to use another bathroom. The couple agreed, which meant the mother and son were able to penetrate the house more deeply.
About this time, another woman reportedly appeared at the front door and claimed to be offering cleaning services, which kept the couple occupied while the mom--and a third partner-in-crime, according to KHOU 11 News on Sep. 15--searched the home and stole jewelry and credit cards.
It isn't clear what the boy was doing during the theft. Probably wondering how, of all the mothers out there, he got stuck with this one.
The elderly couple apparently declined the cleaning services and bid the woman farewell, about the same time the mom and son said goodbye to the couple, never finding the kitten, of course. Meanwhile, the elderly couple--KHOU reports that the husband is 87--at first didn't realize anything was amiss.
The women then allegedly used the stolen credit card to buy two Versace purses and a $900 Nordstrom gift card, according to KHOU. They also filled up their SUV with $100 worth of gas.
But there is a happy ending. While the "missing" kitten was never found, Frank and her alleged accomplices were. KHOU reports that the credit card company noticed that the transactions seemed unusual and called the U.S. Secret Service (!). The police found Frank and her accomplices, Roseanna Marks, 36, and Rhina Mitchell, 31, with the help of the Secret Service and a store's surveillance video, which caught them using the cards.
Meanwhile, with any luck, the little boy is safe with a relative or social services.
Houston, we have another problem
Another interesting credit card crime in the Houston area, involving another senior citizen, and again from the KHOU news team. A 70-year-old woman in Cypress, Texas, recently found a bill on her Kohl's credit card with a purchase that she hadn't made.
She called the police.
The police looked into it and found the culprit.
The identity of the accused? None other than the woman's 32-year-old daughter.
Yikes. Well, could it have been a mixup? Maybe the two were shopping together and got their cards confused? Maybe they were having a visit, and the purses were on a table, and the credit cards were all spread out, and the daughter picked the wrong one up?
Nope. At the time of the purchase in July, the accused was visiting her sick mother in the hospital. And allegedly found the time to take her card and go shopping at Kohl's. Nice.
Don't see much of a future for these two
Another Kohl's story, but this time in Brookfield, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee, from BrookfieldPatch.com. So this 34-year-old man gave his credit card to his girlfriend, so she could buy an outfit at Kohl's. He put a limit on her spending: $50. And then he said to meet her at a bar, and start a tab for no more than $70.
But she went a little over the limit, spending over $500. (So what's a zero between significant others? -Ed.)
So who is the worst partner in this boyfriend and girlfriend union? Is she the worst girlfriend ever for taking his credit card to the cleaners, or is he the worst boyfriend ever for reporting her to the police?
The police, by the way, said it was a civil and not criminal case.
People seeing red in Vienna, Virginia
If you live in Vienna, Va., or anywhere in the U.S. for that matter, and you get a phone call from a police officer who tells you that a traffic camera picked you up running a traffic light, and that if you don't pay for it on the spot with your credit card, they're coming to get you, hang up (and then, for good measure, call your local police station and ask).
Likewise, if the caller is a little more low-key and believeable, and then asks if you want to pay for the fine on the phone and get this matter cleared up, nonetheless, give them no information.
According to the local ABC affiliate in Vienna, authorities are reporting that some residents have received this type of call, and a lot of news outlets have been reporting lately about this scam. And make no mistake, it is a scam.
For instance, in Vienna, they don't even have cameras on their traffic lights. Plus, police officers just don't make these calls. Nor will you receive an email, as scammers have attempted in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, per the word of The Gazette. Legitimate traffic camera tickets in Cedar Rapids are sent in the mail.
Frankly, I'd almost be skeptical of even a ticket in the mail, and if you are, you should look up the number of the police station that sent you the ticket (don't rely on the number on the ticket) and call them to ask if you've been ticketed. And then if you have, feel free to curse, pay your fine, and remember to keep a light touch on the gas pedal the next time you drive.