New scam to steal money from lots of people in very small amounts.

There may be a new credit card scam making the rounds that involves very small charges to lots of people:

Several Internet complaint boards are filled with comments from credit card customers from coast to coast who have noticed a mysterious charge for about 25 cents on their statements.

The charge shows up on statements as coming from “Adele Services” in Melville, N.Y. There is no business by that name listed in Melville, or registered to any business anywhere in New York, for that matter.

Two theories of what is going on have advanced on message boards and among consumer advocates: Someone is trying to find out whether an illegally obtained credit card number will work before making a bigger charge, or they’re trying to rip off tiny amounts from tons of people.

The latter theory has more credibility at the moment. The Better Business Bureau in Louisville reports that, at least so far, those who have been hit with the small charge have yet to get slammed with a bigger charge. The bureau speculates that the number of possible victims could be in the millions.

It’s not clear how the numbers got in the hands of the people making the charge, but consumer advocates say it is most likely through either a data theft or someone using a computer to generate numbers.

Former Massachusetts assistant attorney general Edgar Dworsky, who runs ConsumerWorld.org, said the scam reminded him of an old adage: “It’s easier to steal $1 from a million people than $1 million from one person,” he said.

It’s a surprisingly clever way to scam money when you think about it. For most folks 25 cents is trivial and likely to be overlooked. If you can successfully charge 50,000 people 25 cents you’d net a tidy sum of $12,500. If they managed to hit a million people it jumps to $250,000. Not too shabby. So check your credit card statements and see if you’ve got a 25 cent charge from Adele Services and if you do then be sure to challenge it.

7 comments

  1. Sound familiar. Several years ago I got a small charge (more than 25 cents, but less than $10) on my account every month for several months. Every single time I wrote or called my credit card company telling them that this was an charge I did not make and, after the second time, that I believed my credit card info had been stolen by whomever was making the charges. Every month they waived the charge, but it was not until after someone tried to purchase a computer for more than the credit limit of my card that the credit card company finally issued me a new card. I told them no less than 10 times that I NEEDED a new card# because my info had been stolen and they never did a thing!

  2. Reminds me of Office Space where they were trying to skim off those fraction of a pennies but ended up skimming a whole lot more.  LOL

    Anyway, just goes to show people have to be vigilant.  And if the person wanted a damn quarter I would just reach in my pocket and give em one.

  3. And if the person wanted a damn quarter I would just reach in my pocket and give em one.

    That’s just it though. Asking people individually for a quarter is inefficient even if most folks wouldn’t have a problem with it. It just takes too damn long to build it up to an appreciable amount. Skimming it from several thousand credit cards would be a much faster means of doing it and just as likely to go unnoticed.

    Reminds me of Office Space where they were trying to skim off those fraction of a pennies but ended up skimming a whole lot more.

    The practice itself is known as salami slicing and it shows up in a few different movies. I believe one of the characters in Office Space cites Superman III as inspiration. Richard Pryor playing, of all things, a computer genius gets wrapped up with the wrong people after implementing a similar scheme at his job.

    The magazine Network World has a 2002 article on real-world examples of the crime.

  4. Yea, i know it isn’t practical to ask for quarters…but asking for one is at least legal.

    It has been a while since I watched office space but the Superman thing does ring a bell…

  5. What I don’t understand is – those 25 cents do GO somewhere. Unless they grab the money and run QUICKLY, it should be possible to trace and catch such thieves. Why don’t they?

  6. What I don’t understand is – those 25 cents do GO somewhere. Unless they grab the money and run QUICKLY, it should be possible to trace and catch such thieves. Why don’t they?

    You would think so but it could be the money is getting bounced around various accounts in different countries, who knows.

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