Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fraud for thought

Suppose you were the type to steal a credit card. Or perhaps you just found one somewhere, and, finders keepers being the hard and fast rule that it is, you decide to thieve someone's identity and go on a shopping spree, hoping that whoever lost their card hasn't yet noticed or couldn't be bothered to call it in. What would you buy? I've never seriously considered using someone else's credit card illegally, so I admit, shamefully, to a great deal of ignorance on the ins and outs of the behaviour of identity thieves. I hear warnings about credit card fraud often enough that I've imagined myself committing it at least once and wondered what I'd need to do to get away with it and how long I could. I've never really thought about what I'd buy, though. A stereo system? An iPod? A computer? Expensive clothes (perhaps I'd by these first, so I look the part when I go out to buy other expensive things)? Tap dance lessons? Groceries?

Yes, I said groceries. I'm really not sure what I would buy, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be groceries. I'd be surprised if somebody else would risk prosecution for groceries, unless perhaps they had just bought a fridge with the stolen card and thought it would be fitting to buy food to put in it. A fridge probably wouldn't be the first thing on my list of illegal credit card purchases either. Unless it was a rocket fridge, but that's a completely different story.

I've been asked to consider, directly or indirectly, the moral aspects of parents stealing food to feed their starving children, but never was it mentioned in these scenarios that the particular crime of necessity they were committing was credit card fraud. A grocery store just doesn't strike me as the typical place to abuse someone else's credit card. Nevertheless, I almost always get asked for some other piece of ID besides my credit card when I'm at Loblaws. The signature on the back of has been worn down and smudged to the point of illegibility, and they can't compare that signature to the one I scribble on the credit card slip, so they need another piece to compare to. When I'm pulling out my credit card to pay, it's now almost automatic for me to pull out my licence. (One time, anticipating the question, I offered my licence before being asked, which seemed to offend the cashier. Now I just wait until I'm asked.) This past week when I was grocery shopping, I said something about this to the cashier. She told me that they're required to do it. No surprises there, since I can't see why a cashier would make the customer do something they weren't required to do.

If possible, I make payments for all of my expenses with my credit card, but I rarely get asked for that second piece of ID anywhere else. Occasionally, the person taking my payment will turn the card over and pretend to compare the signatures, paying nothing but flip service to the policy. Rarely, however, do I get asked for ID at the sight of my smudged signature. So I am puzzled as to why Loblaws of all places would be the one that would be so diligent about it.

All this time, I thought people who committed credit card fraud were greedy and lazy, or perhaps, if I'm feeling generous, just a bit too impatient in satisfying their desires. But if Loblaws' diligence is any indicator, I guess they're just hungry.


Dan Van Minnen said...

Hello Randy Elzinga. Looking for you. Hard to find current info. Found your blog! Nice. Very mathy. Like to catch up. My catching up with you has to do with my next four years. Back to school! Please let me know current email. Also, I want to mail you something. Please send address also.

Dan Van Minnen

David Tyner said...

How about taking out the largest cash advance possible and using the money to pay down your student loans?