Learn some lessons from A-list celebrities about credit card fraud
Credit card fraud can happen to anyone.
A fraudster won’t distinguish their victims by age, occupation, race or income— so long as the opportunity is there, they will strike. Read on to find out a few instances where the residents of tinseltown have been targeted by credit card thieves.
The case of the Florida identity thieves
One of the more notable cases of 2013 centred around two scammers from Florida who used hacked celebrity credit card details to open credit cards.
They opened accounts in the name of Kim Kardashian, her mother Kris Jenner, Tom Cruise, Paris Hilton, Michelle Obama, Mel Gibson, Beyonce and others.
They then proceeded to rack up $70,000 in charges and sent this money to a number of accounts.
But as is the case with all of these scammers, they were arrested months after by the Secret Service.
The spa owner who wanted more
Maria Gabriella Perez, owner of the prestigious and swanky ‘Chez Gabriela Spa’, catered to stars like Jennifer Aniston and Anne Hathaway. She saw to the upkeep of their hair, skin and other cosmetic concerns. Her basic service started at US$300 for a facial.
You’d think that Perez would have it made, but she was recently arrested by the U.S. Secret Service for allegedly running fake charges on the credit card accounts of clients including Liv Tyler, Penelope Cruz, Melanie Griffith and jewellery designer Lorree Rodkin.
Charging for extra services
The scam was discovered when Tyler’s management company found charges running up to $214,000 made by the salon to the actress’ American Express cards. Rodkin filed two counts of fraud against Perez and in her affidavit, named the actresses as fellow victims.
The designer’s attorney told investigators that her client was charged about US$68,000 and was offered $25,000 worth of products by Perez if Rodkin would drop the charges. The designer refused. Actress Cher was also named in the affidavit, but her representative clarified that the singer/actress was not a victim.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Wesley Hu explains the simplicity of the scam. After having legitimate services performed and paid for with credit cards, Perez would keep the information and run unauthorised charges on those accounts.
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“I knew this would happen”
In an interview with “Good Morning America”, Jennifer Aniston mentioned that she stopped going to Perez’ establishment after a “situation that was not cool” happened a few years back. The actress declined to give further details, but she “knew something like this would eventually happen”.
The website for Chez Gabriella features photos of the actresses with handwritten testimonies and thank-you notes praising the salon owner for the great job she’s been giving.
In 2011, Perez, whose real name was Maria Gabriella Hashemipour (she was found to be Mexican and not Spanish as she claimed) pleaded guilty to the charges, and was sentenced to five years probation.
Lindsay Lohan made major news headlines back in 2010 thanks to her estimated $600,000 credit card debt.
It was reported she was broke and that she had run that much debt on several of her credit cards that the card providers wanted to shut her accounts down. RadarOnline.com was told by a source at the time that she owed as much as $600,000 and was having some of her card accounts shutdown.
Some were even discussing payment plans with the troubled celebrity and were planning on suing her.
During this time it was also reported by TMZ.com that LiLo was two months behind with her rental payment. She ended up paying the $23,000 owed to her landlord in order to avoid eviction.
Today LiLo spends most of her days continuing to get into mischief, and has a few ideas in the pipeline. One is a rehab centre named after herself, and the other is an upcoming reality show about her life.
Practice credit card safety
If credit card fraud can happen to these celebrities, it can happen to you. Take precautionary steps to ensure that your credit card information is safe and cannot be used by anyone by yourself. Here are some tips to help you.
- Keep your credit card within your sight at all times. If there are times when the card would leave your immediate vicinity, check your account transactions as soon as you can and report any suspicious activity.
- Always have a photocopy of your credit card, including the numbers of local authorities or banks needed in case you run into trouble with your card.
- When dealing with online transactions, always make sure the site is using “https” on the URL. Shop only from trusted sites like Amazon or eBay if you can.
- Dispose of old credit cards properly by shredding or cutting them up.
- Do not place your personal information in your email account or any social networking site. They can be easily hacked and the information obtained can be used against you. Registering your credit card details with a service like Veda’s Secure Sentinel will also put another set of eyes on your details and monitor the possible black market locations on the internet where they may surface.
- Report any lost or stolen card immediately so the bank or credit card company can cancel it.
- Never trust anyone who asks you to supply your credit card information via email or over the phone.