Yesterday I scared you with a few words about check fraud. I don’t know if I scared you enough to get you actually to reconcile your checkbook promptly each month, but I tried.

Today, a story my good friend Sherman Robbins uncovered for South Florida Magazine. “A shivering vagrant who had crawled into an Alamo Rent-A-Car trash container one evening,” writes Sherman, “left his shelter next morning with credit card information on the company’s customers. For $30 he rented a mail drop, and soon he was dialing the toll-free numbers of mail-order computer vendors.”

He ordered a ton of stuff, sold it to pawn shops, and made enough money to rent a nice apartment. (That’s one solution to the homeless problem.) Unfortunately (if you’ve chosen to root for the vagrant), he tripped himself up. He tried to use the same card number a second time, and Fort Lauderdale Detective Kevin Allen nabbed him.

“Most Dumpster divers are professionals who know what they’re looking for,” Sherm quoted Detective Allen, “but this guy wouldn’t even have known how to turn on a computer.”

Moral: “Reconcile” your credit card statements, too — or at least verify each of the charges when the statement arrives. This is especially true if you’re one of those people who has someone else — an accountant or a spouse — pay the bills. They may just assume you really did buy a computer or some new clothes, when you and I know you did nothing of the kind.

Tomorrow: Problems of the Rich and Creative


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