Yet another court case illustrates a crucial safety tip to stave off credit card fraud.
The advice is pretty obvious, but not everyone adheres to it.
A suspect in Muscogee Superior Court faced charges Monday of robbing an insurance agent on Matilda Lane — just off St. Marys Road near Buena Vista Road — and using the agent’s stolen credit card to buy gas.
He didn’t use the credit card four or five hours later, or the next day, police said: He was gassing up a car with the stolen American Express card in just 24 minutes and less than a mile away, at a Circle K on Victory Drive.
A detective testified police used footage from store security cameras to track the suspect as he went from the Circle K to the Victory Drive Wal-Mart buying gas with the stolen card — or trying to, anyway, until the card no longer worked.
This was right after the insurance agent reported to police that he was at his pickup truck when two men pointed a gun at his head and went through his pockets, taking his wallet with credit cards, truck keys and $500 in insurance company cash.
The agent immediately did exactly what you’re supposed to do: He started calling credit-card companies to cancel or lock those accounts so the robbers couldn’t pile up fraudulent credit-card charges.
As quick as he was, he couldn’t cut the cards off in time to stop the Circle K gas purchase, but he was able to pre-empt the attempted Wal-Mart purchase and others, police said.
That illustrates the advice authorities emphasize repeatedly: As soon as you discover a credit card has been lost or stolen, call the company immediately. Regardless of whether you’re liable for the fraudulent purchases that ensue, you don’t want to give the thieves a free ride on your financial services or risk your credit score.
Also you want the police on their trail as fast as investigators can start tracking attempts to use the card.
Police stress this because a pattern is repeated so often in these cases: Thieves figure they’ve only so much time to get all they can out of a card, so they rush to use it. It now is typical for them to speed to a gas station and fill up not only their own personal vehicle but to call friends and relatives and invite them to fill up, too.
“We have seen multiple cars filled up on a credit card,” says Columbus police Maj. Gil Slouchick, adding, “Time is of the essence.”
Neglect or delay canceling the card, and the fraud can reach impressive sums.
Columbus police last year had a case in which thieves got hold of a card that was in a car they stole on Nov. 22, the vehicle having been left with the motor running outside a Double Churches Road liquor store.
Within 40 minutes of the 7:40 p.m. theft, one of the suspects was using the USAA credit card at the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Gateway Road.
Later he and his accomplices used it again at the Columbus Park Crossing Kohl’s. The next day they went to the Airport Thruway Wal-Mart. They also ran up charges at the Whittlesey Boulevard Wal-Mart, and at a Shell service station, a Circle K and a Bojangles restaurant. By the time their spending spree ended, they had spent $11,449 on food, clothes, TVs and drones.
Slouchick cites another reason police need quick notice: Some businesses hold their surveillance videos only for a month or so, and then that evidence is lost. Investigators have to get it as soon as they can.
He suggests also that if you can’t find your card and suspect you simply misplaced it, call the credit card company anyway, and warn representatives to watch for suspicious purchases until you solve the mystery.
The Federal Trade Commission urges consumers to keep credit card accounts and company numbers somewhere safe, so you can get to that information quickly in an emergency. And consider keeping your cards somewhere other than a wallet or purse that thieves or robbers will target, to minimize your losses if that particular item’s stolen.
The FTC also recommends you never carry more credit cards than you need.
Source: Ledger Enquirer