Friday, Aug. 1


Laptops, credit cards and
West African fraud    
Send a link to a friend

[AUG. 1, 2003]  The question wandering through most readers' minds now is, what do laptops, credit cards and West Africa have to do with each other? The story that shows how they relate includes our local police department, fraud units, unidentified telephone callers and the United States Secret Service as well.

Last week a TTY relay call came in at Computer Consulting Associates. A TTY relay call is typically from a hearing-impaired person. The caller wanted to order a Pentium 4 laptop. It turned out the caller wanted to order three laptops and have them shipped to the Bronx, N.Y. The caller gave a MasterCard number to the salesman-tech, Duane Moore, and the credit card authorization was approved.

"It is very unusual for someone outside of our local county to call CCA and order three laptops," Moore said. "My initial response was "life is good," followed by "how will the commission be spent?"

This response quickly disappeared when, the following day, another caller, again by a TTY relay call, wanted to order four laptops and have them shipped to Ghana, West Africa. This caller gave two Visa credit card numbers. Both callers were asked to fill out an order authorization form, which included their name, shipping address, credit card number and signature. Both callers quickly faxed the form back, with no questions asked.

Now this was just a little too weird. CCA at this point called the Lincoln Police Department. They took the information and called both MasterCard and Visa fraud departments. MasterCard eventually confirmed that the cardholder had died four months previously. Visa also confirmed that the purchasers were fraudulent. Now, when the credit cards were run for a credit authorization, they were denied.

Moore informed one of the callers that "their card" had been denied, and the response was, "I forgot to make a payment. Here are two Discover cards that can be used."

Moore said, "Now my thoughts turn from "great commission" to "how can I help catch these people and receive the large reward?"

After numerous conversations with the fraud departments and trying not to have the callers realize that the local business knew they were up to no good, one of the fraud employees suggested that the CCA employee contact the United States Secret Service.


[to top of second column in this article]

The Secret Service agent located in Springfield told Moore that there is a group in West Africa that steals credit card numbers, then calls into the United States and tries to place purchases. Unfortunately there is not very much the Secret Service can do about it.

The Springfield office did contact the New York City office to determine if there was any valuable information at the address at the Bronx, N.Y. address given. The usual method of operation would be to ship the merchandise to an address in the United States, and the receiver of the merchandise would keep part and send the rest on to a destination outside of the United States.

The Secret Service informed CCA that the caller would continue to call until we refused to do business with them. About four days after the initial call, we received another TTY relay call saying they were from California. We quickly told them that we refuse to do business with them.

"Based on the way each conversation went and the handwriting on the order authorization forms, I believe we were dealing with the same person," Moore said. "Obviously there is no way to prove this theory now."

The moral of the story is that it proves "that if it's too good to be true, it probably is not true."

If you have old credit cards that are no longer used, make sure they are destroyed and the credit card companies are informed.

"I will never see a dime of commission from the non-sale of the laptops or see any reward money," Moore said, "but it was interesting seeing how the credit card industry works. If I do receive a large reward, maybe I'll buy a laptop, with MasterCard or a Visa or possibly a Discover card."

[Duane Moore]


Articles from the past week







  • No new postings in this section

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor