Virtually everyone alive today that has or has ever had a credit card is keenly aware of the recent explosion in credit card fraud and theft. We hear the endless radio commercials from companies claiming to protect consumers from identity theft and fraud, and many have had the misfortune of having a credit card (or the information therein) stolen.

What many remain unaware of is why this is happening. For most of my adult life I fell into this category of cardholders. However, after taking over the retail medical equipment and supply division of my father's Metairie, LA home health care company in January of 2011, I have seen far too many attempts at fraudulent purchases that were paid for with stolen credit cards.

Just this week alone we've seen three cases in which over $1,000 total was charged to the victims' cards. In two of these cases, we were the first to notify the credit card companies that their members' cards had been stolen. The third charge occurred over the past weekend, and I learned about it Monday morning while driving in to work from my condo in Long Beach, MS, when the cardholder called to notify me that the purchase was placed fraudulently.

The thieves operate under a formulaic approach. They usually buy the highest-margin medical equipment products I have in stock (presumably to entice me into actually shipping them the items purchased). The buy in quantities of multiples of 10, and the total purchase amount is usually somewhere in the range of $150-$450. The billing address and shipping address obviously aren't the same, and there is usually some tie to either the Miami area and/or southern California. One recent order involved Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I haven't yet checked the area code from the phone number provided at checkout to see if it is/was based in the Miami area. The criminals are not afraid to call the business pretending to be the cardholder, and are usually of Hispanic descent.

Each time we suspect an order was not placed legitimately (and we've become quite good at identifying fraudulent purchases), our first step is to call the credit card company and report that card as stolen on behalf of the cardholder. Our next step used to involved the notification of law enforcement in hopes that a police department, sheriff's office, Crimestoppers or a federal law enforcement agency would work with us to catch the criminals.

Unfortunately for all Americans with credit cards, this turned out to be an exercise in futility.

It's not like it would be difficult to make an arrest with compelling evidence that would almost certainly win a conviction. The thieves use stolen cards to purchase retail goods. The goods are then shipped to the destination of the thieves' choosing (assuming the retailer doesn't catch the fraud or doesn't care that the order was not legitimate). The thieves then retrieve the package and sell the stolen goods on the black market.

Note that within this process the thieves must at some point come into possession of the shipment of the goods purchased using the stolen credit cards. In order to catch at least one member of the theft ring, all a law enforcement agency need to is stake-out the shipping address and wait for the package to be delivered. When the thieves go to retrieve the shipment, the cops could arrest them and offer them a sweet plea deal in exchange for turning in the other members of the group and testifying against them.

If only law enforcement had an interest in catching the criminals.

The unfortunate reality is that every single time I or someone on my behalf contacted a law enforcement agency the response is always the same. This is true both of local law enforcement within the same city, county or locale as the shipping address specified by the criminals, as well as federal law enforcement. The call is quickly ended, usually with the person on the other line opposite myself informing me that it essentially isn't there problem, and that I need to contact someone else. Unfortunately, I've contacted everyone that could possibly have jurisdiction over such crimes and nobody is willing to make an arrest much less prosecute.

So as a result, the number and severity of crimes involving credit card theft continues to skyrocket as the thieves operate with total impunity. The crooks are well aware that nobody (save for the cardholders) seems to care that they are doing this, and none have any interest whatsoever in putting a stop to it. So it continues.

I've given up on trying to figure out why no law enforcement agency that I've contacted (and I've contacted a LOT of them) is even remotely interested in arresting someone known to have made purchases online using a stolen credit card or at minimum acted in coordination with those who stole the cards and made the fraudulent purchases. The would-be evidence against them is compelling enough for me to call to report them to the agencies one would think would be charged with making such an arrest and protecting the public from financial ruin at the hands of someone who stole their life savings. I've tried everything I can to get the situation to make sense, and nothing does.

The bottom line is that credit card fraud in America will become increasingly prevalent as long as local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are more concerned with passing the buck than catching the criminals. It is most unfortunate that there is absolutely zero indication that anyone with the authority to make such an arrest has any inclination whatsoever of actually doing so.

As long as credit card theft and fraud remains a de facto legal practice, Americans should only expect the frequency and severity of such financial crimes to increase.

If you have a credit card, please protect it with your life because no one else in the country seems to care whether or not it gets stolen and your life ruined as a result.
 


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