Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has a well known reputation for giving criminals not much slack and forcing them to sleep in campgrounds and wear pink prison clothes, has become an unlikely victim of a credit card scam. Specifically, he says his Discover credit card was used at a grocery store in Chicago.
Only problem is, the sheriff hasn’t been to Chicago in “many years”. He says he knows there are millions of identity theft victims, but says it was the last thing he ever expected. Officials this week said his credit card took a $300 hit. He was able to cancel the card before other charges could be made.
I’m Not the Only Victim
In an interview with a local newspaper, Arpaio said,
I’m sure I didn’t make the purchase so it could have been done by, what do you call it, skimmers making copies, or through the Internet, many different ways. I don’t think I’m the only victim around, there’s many, many more I presume.
And he’s right. Credit card fraud is on the rise in the U.S.
Only the big credit card scams make the news, unless, of course, a public figure has fallen victim to this kind of fraud. For thieves, they know there is nearly no risk in stealing credit cards from online merchants and using them. In fact, it’s difficult to ascertain how much the true numbers are since so much of it goes unreported. When it is reported, law enforcement agencies are too overwhelmed to chase after an invisible crook who illegally used a credit card for small purchases. Throw in a few charges in other states and it’s not likely these law enforcement agencies will do anything. As one analyst described it,
A consumer in Ohio may purchase something from a website in California that is hacked by an individual in Tennessee who uses a credit card to initiate a fraudulent charge in New Jersey. Where do local authorities even begin to address this?
Even federal and state regulatory agencies are ill-equipped to handle these small instances of credit card fraud. For $50 in disputed charges per account, the federal government simply doesn’t have the resources or funds to chase down every single case. Even if they can catch the small time crooks, the cost of prosecuting far outweighs what was stolen. It’s not a winning situation for anyone but the crooks – and they know this. Also, bank card fraud is on the rise worldwide. One international study published last year found than a quarter of consumers reported having been hit by thieves at least once in the past sixty months.
Unfortunately, these types of thefts have grown by 31 percent in the past three years alone.
During his interview, Arpaio said he canceled his card and even if he is able to find the ones responsible and then learns the $300 was spent on groceries (which it likely was), he won’t press charges. Could the nation’s toughest sheriff have a soft spot? It sounds like it.
Remember, this is the same controversial lawman who founded and now runs “Tent City”, a housing solution for those in the county jail. He’s also known for his massive sweeps for illegal immigrants who enter his country via Mexico.
The 80 year old sheriff says he hasn’t been to Chicago for nearly six decades. The Federal Trade Commission says older consumers were significantly less likely to be victims of ID and credit card scams. While 15.4 percent of those who were between 35 and 44 years of age were victims, the rate falls by to 11.0 percent for those between 55 and 64 and to 10.4 percent for those between 65 and 74. Of those who were at least 75 years of age, only 5.6 percent were victims.
Tough on Crime
Arpaio is currently in his sixth term in office, elected again in November by those who unequivocally support his aggressive and hardline stance on crime and illegal immigration in the Phoenix area. He is also fighting lawsuits from the government and Hispanic drivers who accuse him of civil rights violations and racial profiling, which he vehemently denies.
Most of Arapio’s donations come from other states; in fact, this past election resulted in his being able to build a $7 million war chest for his re-election efforts. Credit card charges were rolling in and he easily – and massively – outpaced the competition in cash and credit card support.
The sheriff has always enjoyed support from people who live outside our state,
Arpaio campaign manager Chad Willems said before the elections last year. He continued,
Those people said what the Justice Department is doing is wrong. They wrote checks, made donations, gave their credit card numbers – all to say this is wrong. But the sheriff’s No. 1 supporters have always been Arizona residents.
All told, about half of his contributions were made in cash and he ended up with around 12,000 out of state donors.
Despite his ability to make the national news from time to time, whether it’s because of the pink jail wear or the tent city in the dry Arizona, his legacy will likely be his role in SB1070 – the very controversial state legislation that when signed by GOP Gov. Jan Brewer in 2010 would become, by far, the toughest illegal immigration effort in American history.
The FBI offers tips for anyone to follow to avoid becoming a victim. Never give out your credit card number, be careful of the sites you visit and ensure they’re legitimate, check with the Better Business Bureau and if you do fall victim, be sure to file a report with your local law enforcement agency and don’t forget to contact your credit card company. Even if the options are limited in terms of what can be done, especially if it’s a smaller amount that was stolen, you must memorialize it to protect yourself.
If nothing else, this proves that no one is exempt from becoming a victim to credit card fraud. If the nation’s toughest sheriff can fall victim, anyone can.
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