Good Samaritans conned into paying for $41K hotel stay
Written by Geoff Williams
Posted On: December 14, 2011
You kind of have to wonder. What's worse? Having your credit card stolen, or being mocked for it on the blogosphere?
Why didn't I think of that?
On being mocked, here's how the Gothamist.com opened a story about a con man who, earlier this year, ripped off the credit cards of three tourists to New York City: "Hey, con artists, you don't need a bag with a broken bottle or broken glasses any more--all you need is to ask some of NYC's 50 million tourists for their credit cards and they'll give them to you."
It seems that Olivier Rey, from Switzerland, would approach people in the Sheraton Hotel & Towers, acting as if he was just a victim of bad luck. As Gary Koelling, a Minnesota resident, told The New York Post, Rey had told him, "I just left my wallet in the cab. I don't know how I'm going to get it back. My family is here. I have a reservation, and I just need to check in. Can you help me?"
Rey didn't ask Koelling to pay for his room. He said he just needing a credit card imprint to check in, and that the following day, he would have a replacement credit card, and he would use that to pay for the room.
Koelling and two other tourists believed Rey, who apparently wound up using the victims' credit card numbers to pay for living expenses at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers from Oct. 13 to Nov. 27. The total cost? $41,000.
I'm sympathetic to Koelling, for what it's worth, and will offer a little defense.
A few months ago, I made a stop at a rest area, where I was soon approached by an attractive, seemingly middle-class, educated, honest-looking woman. It was dusk, and she and her husband or perhaps boyfriend were stranded at this rest area with, she said, almost no gas to reach their home, somewhere in Kentucky, and she had lost her wallet at a Cracker Barrel. They were basically begging for money, and despite having written about numerous cons, the woman seemed believable, and I was ready to let their car follow mine to a gas station, where I said I'd put gas in their car. Just before preparing to follow me out of the rest area, the woman told me that someone else had helped them, and they no longer needed my assistance.
I still wonder if I was in the beginning stages of being scammed--or encountering some people who genuinely needed help. So I get how Koelling and the others were fleeced. When you're face-to-face with someone who seems to truly need your help, the natural instinct is to help.
Still, there's an important lesson here nonetheless. If a stranger approaches you and asks for help checking into a luxury hotel with YOUR credit card--just don't.
Spitting on Dad's grave
Shawn D. Henry, 53, of Alexandria Bay, N.Y., admitted to a judge on Dec. 6 that he used his father's identity to apply for credit cards, according to The Watertown Daily Times. You might feel for the guy if he intended on making payments on the cards and not trying to do anyone any harm (it would still be wrong, but I'm always trying to find the good in people).
But apparently that wasn't the case. He allegedly just wanted the cards to buy stuff he was never going to pay back. He was able to get three credit cards and, somewhere between June 2008 and January 2010, bought $13,855 worth of stuff.
There was a farmer had a dog…
Gwendolyn Brice, 37, of Cleveland, Ohio, is currently in judicial hot water for taking credit cards from at least five elderly residents at a nursing home where she worked--and then using those cards to play bingo.
She was arrested Oct. 13 after a detective followed her the night before. She went to a church bingo night and used one of the victim's cards to buy bingo cards and supplies to the tune of $140.
No word yet on whether she won any of these games.
Same-name identity theft
NBC-2 News in Orlando recently ran an interesting report about Paula Keaton, a Naples, Fla., woman whose identity was stolen six years ago by…Paula Keaton.
Apparently, six years ago, another woman with the same name began using the victim's social security number to open credit cards and other accounts. The crooked Paula Keaton eventually went to jail for a different fraud case, then was freed and allegedly began using the honest Paula Keaton's social security number once again. Fortunately, the honest Keaton had by then employed an identity theft monitoring service and learned about the crooked Keaton's attempts and was able to prevent her from opening new accounts.
Why the crooked Paula Keaton isn't back in jail wasn't explained. Regardless, it's a good reminder about the importance of being careful with your identity. You may not want to pay to for credit card monitoring if you're comfortable doing it yourself online, but there is plenty to be said for shredding important documents before tossing them in the trash and not handing over your credit card to a fellow frazzled tourist.