Sep 142016
 

One of the great things about buying and selling vintage items for a living is that I get to read all kinds of old magazines and newspapers.  I find it fascinating how much American life has changed, and even more how it’s stayed the same, through the decades.  This evening I came across this fascinating article about credit card fraud in a 1964 issue of the American Legion Magazine.  It’s chock full of intriguing tidbits, IMO.

creditcardthief

The American Legion Magazine Volume 76 Number 5 May 1964

Don’t Lose Your Credit Cards! by Robert Angus

When the black market gets its hands on them, guess who’s stuck?

June 29, 1963, was an unlucky day for the nation’s more than 18 million holders of credit cards.  On that day, the New York Supreme Court decided in favor of Texaco, Inc., in a test case against real estate broker Bernhard Goldstein of the Bronx, N.Y.  According to the New York Times of June 19, 1962, Goldstein’s troubles began when he pulled into a gas station in the Bronx and charged a tank of gas.  The station attendant failed to return his credit card.  Some months later, Goldstein received bills run up with the card which ultimatelytotaled $569.88 – a charge he refused to pay.  The court held that Goldstein was liable – because he had failed to notify the company of his loss.  The case is being hailed by oil companies, hotel chains and the credit card industry generally as a precedent for future cases involving card holders whose cards fall into other hands.

In some instances, credit card holders are released from further liability as soon as they drop a letter notifying the issuing company of a card loss into the mail.  In others, liability ends when the company receives the letter.  In still others, it ends five or ten days after receipt of notification.  Conflicting state laws and company policies keep the matter of notification in a somewhat gray area, however – with some states and companies insisting on compliance with the letter of the contract, and others giving the cardholder the benefit of the doubt. So many people’s credit score got hit hard due to this during this time.

Each year, according to American Oil Company’s Central Credit Office manager L.C. Goodlander, some 1 1/2 million Americans report lost or stolen cards.  Of these, some 60,000 fall into the stolen category.  But each stolen card, according to Goodlander and his opposite number at Pure Oil, Robert Walerius, represents an average of $3,500 in charges, some of which are charged back to the legitimate card holder.  So big is the busines in stolen cards that a black market has developed in them.  Comments Walerius, “A pickpocket in New York, rather than using the cards he lifts himself, sells them to a broker (going price: from $10 to $50), who in turn sends them to Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami or elsewhere, where they’re priced at $100 and up, and used.  In Chicago, yet another ring member will begin running up bills or forging checks using a credit card stolen only hours before in New York.  That’s the reason we consider the prompt reporting of lost or stolen cards so important.”

The theory of the underworld seems to be that credit cards are at least as good as money.  One professional bad check casher even had his own plastic embossing kit for counterfeiting credit cards when he was arrested two years ago.  Another man, a convicted forger, bought an American Express credit card in New York’s black market several years ago and proceeded to run up a substantial bill for liquor and clothes before he was arrested.  (But few “cardsharps” have been able to top the four-months-long, $15,000 spree of a 25-year-old Michigan man.  In June of 1963, he was handed six credit cards by a companion who had found them in a purse he picked up on the street.  In spite of the stop orders issued by the card companies, the man managed to run through an average of $200 a day.  He had stayed in the finest hotels, had his car painted four times and had gone on a $125-a-day fishing expedition in Florida.)

Actually, the three principal general-purpose credit card companies – Diner’s Club, American Express and Carte Blanche – and most of the major oil companies spend time and money tracking down credit card frauds and abuses to protect themselves and their card holders.  And, for additional protection, all companies have tightened credit requirements and they keep in closer contact with active card users.  American Express, for example, boasts it can often detect a credit card abuse before the owner reports his card lost.  The general purpose companies today have their own detective bureaus, generally staffed by ex-FBI men.

One protection which many card holders feel they have is their signature on their cards.  Not so, say the issuing companies.  “We can’t ask every gas station attendant, waitress and store clerk to be a handwriting expert,” Goodlander comments.  “The purpose of the signature is mainly to deter amateurs, since professionals generally come up with a pretty acceptable forgery.”

What happens when the credit card company catches a crook?  Until recently, the main aim of every company was to get its card back.  Companies considered themselves lucky if they could obtain reimbursement from the offender,; but rarely did they prosecute.  In the past 12 months, all of this has changed.  Notes one New York hotelman, “Time was when the credit card companies actually supported some clip joints – removing a spot from their listnot after repeated complaints of overcharging, pickpocketing, and so on, but only after customers refused to pay padded bills.  Now they’ll knock a place off the list at the first complaint from members of any management irregularity.  Credit cards have grown up in the past year.”

The companies generally offer a reward of $25 for each stolen card picked up by a waiter, serviceman or store clerk.  “All that this did was to put a floor under the black-market price for stolen cards,” a New York Police Department member grumbles.

When you lose your wallet containing $100 cash, you’ve lost $100, points out Pure Oil’s Walerius.  But if it also contains half a dozen credit cards, you could take years to pay off all the bills that the finder could run up.

What can a card holder do to protect himself?  Walerius offers the following pointers:

1.  When you receive an unsolicited card in the mail, return it or destroy it if you don’t plan to use it.  Retention of the card may imply a contract to honor any charges made with it.

2. Treat your credit cards as you would cash.  Don’t carry them loose in pockets, leave them in car glove compartments and so on.

3. Each time you use your card, be sure you get it back.

4. Don’t lend your card to anybody unless you’re prepared to assume full responsibility for any purchases made while it’s out of your hands.

5. Save your receipts and compare them with your statement at the end of the month.  It’s possible for unscrupulous salespersons to add charges to a sales ticket after the customer has signed it.

6. Report lost or stolen cards immediately – preferably in writing – to the issuing company.

Sep 032014
 

market-basket  I just visited my local Market Basket for the first time since the now infamous pissing match between the billionaire owners ended.  Can’t say I’m happy about it.

I don’t do a lot of grocery shopping since I don’t cook and mainly eat fast food.  But I do buy three things from Market Basket on a nearly weekly basis: cigarettes, beverages and snack foods.  While I’m amazed by the outpouring of support for Arthur T. Demoulas that the world was recently witness to and was excited to see so many people band together to stand up for what they believed was right, I continued to shop at Market Basket during the whole debacle.  Why?  Because I’m not interested in going to additional expense or trouble to support a billionaire spoiled brat.  But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about the punishment and deceit that I (and so many others) saw coming.

On Saturday, the Boston Herald ran a story titled: CEO not in Market to raise prices. Here are the first few paragraphs- Continue reading »

Nov 282008
 
Part of the Friday Frugality Series - Previous in series         

Today is Black Friday, though I’ve barely heard that phrase this year and don’t know of any actual deals going on today.  Still, I have a feeling that if my regular Frugal Friday readers aren’t out shopping for deals, they’re probably still in recovery mode from yesterday’s National Day of Overeating.  So I’m just going to drop some quick news/tips/whatever with y’all.

I’ve written about the Safeway PowerPump Gas Rewards at Morgan Hill Review and about their doubling of points on gift card sales here in last week’s Friday Frugality.  They did finally get things together and credit me for the missing gift card purchases last week.  But on Monday when I went shopping I received yet another surprise: the coupon pictured above, left.  The coupon reads “$2 off your total shopping trip when you buy ANY 1 card.”  I did purchase a single small gift card on this purchase so I’m not sure if the coupon was triggered by that gift card purchase or my repeated calls to their customer service line, but I was still glad to use it on my Thanksgiving shopping trip and look forward to getting another one before the promotion ends at New Year’s.

The second tip has been sitting around my “to write about” file for a few weeks now, but its deadline is coming up soon so I’m dropping it in here.

About six months ago I wrote a comparison of the different coin counting machines available in my area and came to the conclusion that Coinstar was, by far, the best.  The primary motivation behind this choice was the ability to get the full value of your coins when exchanging them for a gift card instead of cash.  Well, now Coinstar’s gotten even better…

Now through December 7th, 2008 when you cash in $40.00 or more in coins at any Coinstar machine and redeem your coins for a gift certificate you will receive a small form to complete and mail in.  Then, within a month or so, Coinstar will send you a bonus gift certificate for the same company valued at $10.00.  No strings attached (except, of course selling your personal info to Coinstar).

Part of the Friday Frugality Series - Previous in series        
Nov 212008
 
Part of the Friday Frugality Series - Previous in series         Next in series

Earlier this week I wrote (on one of my other blogs) about Safeway’s PowerPump Gas Rewards program and how you can use it to save a ton of money on gas. I know not everyone has a Safeway (or Safeway gas) in their area, which is why I wrote the article on my local blog. However, I have since learned that Krogers (and possibly other members of the Safeway corporate “family”) have similar promotions in place. Now, that’s not enough to retread the entire program here on Philaahzophy so if you want the basics visit the link above.

Through the end of the year Safeway is offering even more gas rewards when you do something you’re likely to do this time of year anyway: buy gift cards. Not only do gift cards (with a few notable exceptions like pre-paid credit cards, Safeway cards, and event tickets) now count towards your accumulated spending for the purposes of gas discounts (they didn’t under the old system), but through either Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve (I’ve seen both on promotional materials) you’ll receive an extra $0.10 per gallon discount every time you accumulate $100 in gift card purchases.

Since the PowerPump gas discounts are now cumulative this means that one can actually receive a free tank of gas relatively easily. For example, my household spends about $150/week on our standard groceries, we also pick up one or two prescriptions a month from the Safeway pharmacy (each of which earns a bonus credit), and now I’m buying gift cards there as well and getting bonus rewards for every $100 spent.  Combine all of that with dropping gas prices and free gas is no longer a pipe dream.

Not only are gift cards a perfectly acceptable gift in the modern age, but I actually purchase them for stores and restaurants I regularly patronize as well, thus earning Safeway gas rewards when I eat at Chili’s, McDonalds, Jack in the Box or Subway and even when I shop at Home Depot, Target and my favorite “store” of all: eBay.  One word of warning, however…

When I purchased $90 of gift cards on Tuesday (and nothing else on the transaction) I swiped my card through the machine, but was not credited for the purchase.  After talking to store management I was told they couldn’t access the Safeway Club Card account so I would need to call the toll-free number (1-977-723-3929) and address the issue with them.  I dutifully spent my time and energy doing that and was assured my account would be updated in 24 hours.  Alas, after today’s shopping trip no credit had occured and I had to call again this afternoon.  Again, I have been assured that the credit would appear within 24 hours, but we shall see…

Part of the Friday Frugality Series - Previous in series        Next in series
Nov 112008
 

Just wanted to take a moment to welcome all of the visitors from the Veteran’s Day edition of the Festival of Frugality!  Although I’m personally so far removed from the American economy that the current credit crunch hasn’t had an immediate impact on my life, I’m well aware of the rises prices and the economic sufferings of those around me.

I’m just getting back to regular frugal blogging, but be sure to check out my Friday Frugality series to see my past tips on saving cash wherever and whenever possible.  And be sure to swing back by this Friday to read how I managed to pay less than $2.0 gallon for gas and don’t expect to fill my 33 gallon tank for less than $1.00 per gallon before the year is out!