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.


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.

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
Jan 042008

Blogging about personal finance, and poverty in particular, I read a lot of press releases about credit opportunities for people with poor credit. So, imagine my surprise when I opened a browser window to find the headline: Average Credit Credit Cards. Although I haven’t achieved the leap from “poor credit” to “average credit” yet, hopefully some of you dear readers have done so. Well, now you know there’s no reason to abandon Philaahzophy as a result. ‘Cause we’ve got info for you lucky folx as well! still has the cards you need, even if your FICO score has found its way above the 600 mark. Yep, the same place I recommended for bad credit is the place I’m recommending for average credit as well. Heck, they even have entire sections devoted to those with high credit, which is a place I can only dream of visiting at some distant date. in other words, when it comes to credit cards, CreditCardSearchEngine has pretty much anything you could ever need.

Aug 252007

Have you ever been glad your cell phone got cut off? I was when it happened today. Aside from the fact that I’ve always hated cell phones, the last month I’ve been receiving 30 plus calls from the companies that were foolish enough to issue me credit cards.

Not that I won’t be paying them when I can, but I told them that two months ago when I lost my job. So, I’ve been letting them continue to call and hang up on my voicemail. What, exactly is the point of speaking to them when they’re simply going to ignore my honest answers to their questions. I mean, do they really think it never occurred to me to ask my friends and family for a loan? When they ask “could your spouse help you make a payment?” does anyone suddenly slap themselves on the forehead, thank them for the great advice and immediately pay off their bill? Seriously.

I didn’t get my first credit card until I was 36. This was a very intentional choice based on my knowledge of the way credit cards work and my own spending habits in the past. Waiting was a smart move. Now, two years later I’ve got 7 credit cards, all maxed out and WAY over their limits thanks to the fees they so love to tack on after the fact.

My advice – cut ’em up or, better yet, never apply for them in the first place. Your checking account’s debit card should handle anything that requires a credit card while PayPal can handle most of your online transactions.

Mar 022001

With four online businesses (and no merchant account) I am always looking for different ways to send/receive money online. My primary needs are simplicity and security: eMoneyMail meets both, once the accounts have been established.

Signing Up

Signing Up for eMoneyMail is actually quite simple. You simply click the sign-up button and enter your name, email address, username, password and password hint. They then send you an email with a link to click and confirm the email address. Simple as that, you have an account. Of course, you can’t do anything with it yet, though.

Sending Money

The first time you send money with eMoneyMail you must enter your address, phone number and account information. Since I don’t have a bank account I decided to use Visa (the only credit card they accept, BTW). Be sure to have your Visa in hand because they need not only the account number and expiration date, but the CVV2. The CVV2 is the three-digit number on the back of the card which adds another layer of security.

After completing this information eMoneyMail will send you a letter via snail mail with a PIN. The letter takes 5-7 days to arrive (mine took 5). Once you receive the letter you return to the site, enter your PIN and then your first transaction will actually be sent. This adds a long delay in originally signing up and getting that money moving, but it’s only required the first time you send cash. I sent money to myself (at a different email address) the first time, just to get rid of this delay.

You must also include a security question with each transaction. You can ask whatever you like, but the recipient must answer the question exactly as you did in order to receive their payment.

There is a $1.00 fee every time you send money.

Once your transaction has been initiated an email is sent to the recipient informing them that they have received a payment via eMoneyMail.

Receiving Money

When you receive a message from eMoneyMail that someone has sent you money you simply click on the provided link to get to their site. After logging-in (or signing up if you’re new) you enter the information for the account you wish to have the money credited to. Unlike PayPal you cannot leave the money at eMoneyMail, but must transfer it out within two weeks or it is returned to the sender.

If you want the money applied to your credit card the transaction happens instantly (though some credit cards take a couple days to show the credit). If you have the money deposited to your checking account you must supply your social security number and drivers license (or state ID) number and it can take as long as seven days. Obviously, you must also be able to properly answer the security question supplied by the sender.

That’s all there is to it. There is no fee for receiving money, only for sending.

Other Concerns

eMoneyMail is backed by Bank One, but you do not need to have any accounts or cards with Bank One in order to either send or receive payments via eMoneyMail.

There is a daily limit of $300.00 and a 30-day limit of $600.00. These both seem low in my opinion, but the site states there are no plans to raise these in the near future.

eMoneyMail is currently only available to people with a US issued Visa Card or a checking account at a US bank.


While eMoneyMail can be a hassle to set up, it is another alternative for online payments. Since I don’t have merchant accounts for my online businesses, I try to make sending payment as easy as possible for my customers. If you are simply looking for a way to send money to friends or family, eMoneyMail can be useful, but if you’re looking for wide compatibility, I recommend you stick with PayPal or one of the other better known online payment services.