The 8 Weirdest Cases of Credit Card Theft

By Carrie Kirby. Last updated 29 September 2014. 0 comments

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When someone robs your home, they're invading not just your property, but your privacy as well. No fun. But when someone steals and uses your credit cards, you at least get to spy on the perpetrator by reading on your credit card statement what he or she tried to buy with your good name. (See also: How to Deal With Credit Card Fraud)

If you think your identity has been stolen and new accounts have been opened in your name, you won't have much time for idle reading, since you'll have to file a police report and jump through a lot more hoops to clear your name.

But if it's a simple matter of a stolen card or card number, you probably don't have much to worry about. Since federal law limits consumer liability for credit card theft losses to $50 — and most card companies won't even hold you responsible for that — once you report the crime to your card company, you can afford to sit back and enjoy this peek into the life of a crook. You may not end up developing a relationship with your scammer and learning life lessons the way things worked out in the movie Identity Thief, but you might at least have a laugh.

Especially if your scammer's purchases are anything life these real-life examples of the weirdest cases of credit card theft.

1. Must Have Been a Really Nice Litter Box

Martin Bowling, who had been a well known success in the search marketing field, was convicted of stealing a subscriber list from a former employer, Woodcraft Magazine, and using the information to charge more than $4,000 worth of goods, including a home beer brewing kit and a self-cleaning cat litter box. In Bowling's defense, most cat owners have had moments when they would do almost anything to avoid having to scoop the litter box.

2. Unusual Wallet

For Pompano Beach, Fla., resident Ann Hernandez, it's not what she allegedly bought — power tools — but where she allegedly stashed the illicit credit cards and driver's license that was weird. I'm not going to say where, but police probably had to get her to squat and cough to reveal the evidence.

3. I Just Wanna Be Me

Graduate student Li Ming tried to commit credit card fraud by impersonating… himself. Confused? What happened was, Li (who is from China, where last names come first), ran up tons of charges on his cards. Instead of paying up, Li faked his own death, got an obituary printed in the paper, and then later quietly tried to use a copy of his birth certificate to apply for a new driver's license. He figured that because his surname is one of the most common in China, no one would notice. Unfortunately for him, the DMV did indeed notice, and Li was busted.

4. Weekend at Eunice's

In England, an Afghan war widow received a bank statement addressed to the former owner of her home. A little sleuthing told Nicola Marlton-Thomas that the accountholder, Eunice Lees, had died two years earlier, leaving no heirs. Marlton-Thomas cleaned out the woman's accounts and applied for credit cards in her name, buying business supplies, camping gear, and clothes before security monitors realized that these were not typical purchases for a 91-year-old woman.

5. The $9.84 Scam

Earlier this year, hundreds of consumers began complaining about mysterious charges appearing on their bills, always for $9.84. It was unclear who might be doing this or whether the victims had a common link, but one thing is apparent: Thieves are banking on the fact that most of us won't check our statements carefully enough to notice a random charge under $10.

6. Straight to the Top

The case of Abraham Abdallah is bizarre in its brazenness. The busboy picked up Forbes' list of richest Americans and went right to the top, gathering the luminaries' social security numbers, birthdates, home addresses, and even credit card numbers with a combination of Internet research and social engineering. Abdallah then attempted to use the credit card numbers of none other than Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, and Warren Buffett to purchase expensive goods, and may have even bought not one but two brownstones in Brooklyn, according to the New York Post. (See also: Online Shopping Safety Tips)

7. Spielberg Part Deux

Abdallah wasn't the only con artist to try and victimize Steven Spielberg. James Rinaldo Jackson managed to tap into the director's American Express account from prison, he says just to snoop on his idol's high-roller purchases. But Jackson pilfered other people's credit accounts to pay for pizzas, jewelry, and Nike shoes, which he used to pay off other inmates for standing guard duty while he dialed for dollars. He also sent a letter to then Hollywood director (later Yahoo! CEO) Terry Semel, containing account numbers and other personal data for dozens of Hollywood personalities, as part of an unsuccessful movie pitch. When he didn't get a picture deal, Jackson reportedly went ahead and used some of the listed figures' credit card numbers. Jackson brazenly stole the identities of more than 25 chief executives, using the cards and cash advances to buy all manner of luxury items.

8. Beyond the Pale

In one of the more egregious cases of identity theft I've heard of lately, it seems that the bodies and possessions strewn on the site of the Malaysia Airlines 17 crash have been plundered for credit cards and other identifying documents, which are possibly being used for identity theft. Scam Facebook profiles have been opened in victims' names, and one journalist said that every bag he saw at the crash site appeared to have been opened and rummaged through.

Heard of any crazy credit card or identity theft scams lately? Please share in comments!

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