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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
One more way to steal (09/28/2011)
By Frances Edstrom

Just when you think there’s nothing new under the sun, someone pops up to surprise you.

John and I were in a neighboring city for errands and decided to have dinner at a restaurant there. Unfortunately, I left my purse dangling from the back of the chair, and didn’t notice it until we got home. I don’t usually carry a purse, but I wanted to have my own credit card to use as we were in different stores. I also had just cashed a check, and didn’t want to leave my purse in the car for fear that someone would steal the cash. I know, stupid.

When we got home, I called the restaurant and they had found the purse and said they would hold it for me until I could come get it the next day. So, the next day, back we went and there was my purse — cash, credit cards and I.D. intact. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Not so fast! Two days later, I woke up to a message on my home phone, my work phone, and both e-mails. It was one of my credit card companies — their fraud division. After asking me my “secret” questions, and ascertaining I am really Frances Edstrom, they asked, “Did you spend $6??.?? in the Netherlands yesterday?”

“No,” I said, getting a bad feeling.

“Were you in Ireland earlier this morning?”


“How about Iowa?”


My credit card had been used in all three of those places, to the tune of over $1,000.00.

“But I still have my credit card,” I said. “It’s in my purse!”

“Yes,” they explained, “that can happen.”

I supposed that the bogus purchases must have been made by phone or internet.

“No,” they replied. “In all cases, the credit card was present and used at the sale.”


It can happen in any number of ways. One way is for the thief, who may be an employee of the business and has the credit card out of your sight, to take a photo of both sides of your card with a cell phone. The thief can also use a hand-held scanner, not the one the business has, but an illegal one, scoring all the card information in a flick of the wrist. A third way is for the thief to replace the business’ scanner with one of his own, getting the info that way.

Most of these thieves are the small potatoes guys. They then sell your credit card info to a ring, whose members can send that info all over the world via the web, to other people who can quickly make a reproduction of the card and hand it over to others to go use it and steal your money.

I was impressed with the swiftness of the credit card company’s reaction, getting verification from me and stopping the card dead. But still, the thieves got away with a lot. And I am only one person out of hundreds of thousands whose card information is stolen every day.

The card company asked me if I would file a police report, and I agreed. This is where the process came to a dead end. First, (this was not a police department in our circulation area) the person who first took down my story listened and then said, “Did you tell the card company that it’s not possible to be in three places at one time?” Hmm.

Then, in my in-person interview, I was told that all the detectives were really busy. I thought they perhaps might visit the restaurant to warn the owner of what might possibly be happening. But no.

So, I’ll probably never get to the bottom of this, unless the credit card company does something. I just have to remember to be more vigilant. Less trustful. More street smart. Not any easy task for someone from Winona who is used to trusting people to do the right thing. 


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