Credit card crooks steal $31,000 in gas

Written by Geoff Williams
Posted On: November 1, 2013

It's time for our monthly look at the latest in unusual credit card crimes. And I've always wanted to be an advice columnist. What do the two have to do with the other? Usually nothing, but I thought of as a change of pace … well, you'll see what I mean in a moment.

Dear Credit Card Crime Columnist:

Late last month, Jessica Soviero, a waitress -- well, probably an ex-waitress now -- pleaded guilty in a federal court for stealing credit card numbers when she worked at a deli in Orlando, Florida. According to The Orlando Sentinel, her ex-boyfriend gave her a skimmer, and so she would take her customers' credit cards to the register and run the charge through. If the coast was clear, she would then sneak into the bathroom and use the skimmer to steal the information on the plastic for later use.

What advice would you give Ms. Soviero, who is facing up to 15 years in prison and may be fined $250,000?

-- Worried Diner

Dear Worried Diner:

First of all, according to the National Restaurant Association, there are 980,000 restaurants in the United States (I haven't looked it up, but I think about half of them are McDonald's). Anyway, that's a lot of restaurants and meals, so while these stories do make the news, statistically speaking, we're probably still pretty safe giving our credit cards to the servers.

By the way, why did we ever call them waiters? We're the ones who wait.

Anyway, if you're wondering if I have advice for Ms. Soviero, I do. I couldn't help but notice that your ex-boyfriend gave you the skimmer. Dude, you broke up with the guy for a reason, right? And now he comes back and recruits you for a life of crime? You should have trusted your instincts the first time around. Still, since I don't want to be too snarky to someone who didn't ask to be thrown into this column. Here's hoping you get your life back on track.

Dear Credit Card Crime Columnist:

Pennsylvania police are looking for some criminals who used a Fayette County credit card to steal more than $31,000 in gas, according to recent media reports.

Police say that the credit card had normally been used to fill up a recycling truck. But instead, people used the card to buy over 9,000 gallons of gas.

And here's the kicker. The gas card was reported stolen, but nobody thought to cancel the card. Do you think the victim deserves some blame?

-- Mystified

Dear Mystified:

Yeah, I'm mystified, too, but I'm not big on blaming the credit-card victims -- after all, they did nothing wrong. Still, what a classic case of terrible judgment, this time on the victim's side. Of course, the victims here are the local taxpayers, who will probably wind up footing the bill. I guarantee you if that card had belonged to someone, instead of simply the county, it would have been cancelled. On the other hand, most credit card companies are pretty good at having safeguards for spotting when a thief has a credit card. Clearly, something went wrong.

No great advice, other than, folks, if you report a credit card stolen to the authorities, don't forget to also call your credit card company and cancel it.

Dear Credit Card Crime Columnist:

Here's a trick I'd like you to warn your readers about. It happened on the other side of the pond, as the saying goes, in England, but there's no reason it couldn't happen here. In Sudbury, England, according to the Suffolk Free Press, a woman named Lilian Osborne, in her mid-80s, was in her grocery store's parking lot, putting bags in her car when a woman tapped her on the shoulder. She told Ms. Osborne that she had dropped a 10-pound note.

Somehow the woman, who was described as being in her mid-30s, convinced Ms. Osborne to open her purse, so she could put the money back. Instead, the woman put her hand in the purse and removed the woman's credit card.

Ms. Osborne discovered the card was gone not long after, when she went to get some gas. Fortunately, she alerted the authorities and her credit card company before the thief took advantage the card.

-- Concerned Citizen

Dear Concerned Citizen:

Thanks for the warning. Ms. Osborne was extremely lucky -- many credit card thieves, when they get a credit card, bolt to the nearest gas station or Walmart to start shopping. But, yes, that's quite a trick, and a mean one, since I'm guessing Ms. Osborne didn't have much time to think or even tell the woman that she didn't really want a stranger's hand dipping into her purse.

So the trick is probably to put your purse in the car and then go for the groceries. Of course, if you follow my advice, your friendly neighborhood thief will probably try and swipe your pot roast or a can of Pringles. Sometimes, you just can't win.

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