As far as criminal genius goes, physically stealing a credit card ranks somewhere between attempting to rob an armored car and stealing ice cream from kids in the park. It’s extraordinarily risky, but the payoff is usually about as rewarding as brain freeze. Often, a stolen credit card will be canceled before a thief even has a chance to use it. Other times, it’ll record every single purchase a thief makes and leave a nice little trail for the cops. Either way, when you steal a credit card, you’re putting your life on the line for a very minimal reward.
But the overwhelming likelihood of failure doesn’t stop some of America’s dumbest and most desperate criminals from trying. Since the turn of the century, thieves with brass balls and no foresight have been trying to make pick pocketing credit cards pay off for them– and last year was no different. Let’s take a look at some hilariously bad attempts at credit card theft, all of which occurred within the past 12 months.
1) Woman steals credit card, uses it to pay for lunch across the street. If there were a class on pickpocketing, the first lesson would probably be about why you should never hang around the scene of a crime. Because, you know, it’s sort of the first place that the police are going to look. Unfortunately, this epiphany escaped 30-year-old Estellamarie Ruiz. Last April, the mother of two lifted a woman’s wallet from a gas station and then used the victim’s credit card to buy her children lunch at the McDonald’s 50 yards away. When the victim gave police a description of Ruiz’s green minivan, all the cops had to do was look across the street. They found Ruiz eating with her kids in the parking lot, the stolen wallet in her possession. She was charged with felony identity theft and misuse of a credit card.
2) Woman pays her lawyer with stolen card. So let’s say that you’ve been charged with a minor drug offense and your legal fees are going to be more than you anticipated. How do you afford your pricey private lawyer? For 21-year-old Gloria Berglund, stealing Mom’s credit card made the most sense. Turns out her mother wasn’t too pleased with the $250 charge and decided to let the police know. Now Gloria is facing a felony credit card abuse charge and a very awkward homecoming when she gets out of jail.
3) Homeless man uses blessing from God for pedicure. Being homeless really makes you prioritize what’s important in life. When you spend your time scraping to get by, any little windfall seems like a sign from above telling you that it’s okay to treat yourself. That’s the excuse Jonah Troutman, a 27-year-old homeless man in Miami, gave to police to explain why he tried to use a canceled credit card he’d found to pay for a pedicure. Now, meticulous toe hygiene definitely isn’t the worst vice someone can have, but it’s a problem when you use someone else’s credit to foot the bill (did you see what we did there?). Troutman found himself in jail on the charges of petit theft and illegal use of a credit card.
4) Twitter brings down massive credit card theft ring. Once in a while, a group of thieves will actually get themselves organized enough to make credit card theft profitable. This was the case with a 111-man crime ring in Queens last year. They used stolen credit cards to buy merchandise with good resale value, then distributed it to cells located in Russia, Puerto Rico and the Middle East. They really raked in the profits. Their only mistake was that they bragged about their criminal exploits on Facebook and Twitter. After the cops caught one member, it wasn’t hard to use the pictures his friends had posted online to convict the entire group. Somewhere, Charles Darwin is laughing.
Last year certainly saw its share of idiotic credit crimes. From burger-starved children to blessings from God, thieves used just about every excuse in the book to justify stealing someone’s identity, and it always came back to bite them in the end. What kind of credit card thefts will we see in 2012? Who knows, but one thing’s for sure: they’ll be pretty ridiculous.