http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2008/02/15/credit-card-fraud-hits-alamo-shop


Danville Express

Newsfront - February 15, 2008

Credit card fraud hits Alamo shop

Two men allegedly agreed on card use at first

by Natalie O'Neill

Robbing a bank. Stealing a car. Mugging a stranger.

There's not much gray area when it comes to these crimes - usually the suspects and the victims both know what role they play.

But what about the crimes where layers of bureaucracy remove the victim from the suspect? A case like this has Alamo Flower Co. owners both confused and scared.

A Danville man allegedly lent a friend his credit card to charge nearly $12,000 in flowers for a wedding, then falsely reported credit card fraud after he received the bill. The credit card company investigators determined the owner-operated shop was then responsible for the absorbing the thousands of dollars.

"For a small business, that can be a fatal blow," said Alamo Valley Station Clp. Elmer Glasser, who worked on the mid-January case. It is still being investigated.

After Glasser interrogated the men, they both admitted the card was used with the owner's permission, according to police reports.

"He said, 'He never paid me back, so I filed a fraud case,'" Glasser said. "He lied to the credit card company."

Flower store owner and manager Connie Peterson said she was thrown off because she trusts her customers, often knows them by name, and has never been taken advantage of financially.

"It scares the daylights out of you," she said. "That would be a tremendous loss."

She said it hasn't yet been determined if Alamo Flower Co. will need to absorb the cost. She said it's not unheard of for people in the area to spend that much money on flowers for weddings - and to use credit as payment.

Even in small towns, businesses should get as much information as they can from customers not using cash, Peterson said. Credit card companies are quick to take the side of their customer and it's vital you have as much information on the buyer as possible.

"It's not something you expect to happen," she said.

It's possible the men planned to split the reimbursed money, Glasser said.

White collar crime like fraud, computer scams and identity theft are increasing nationally, thanks in part to the Internet.

"This is a very fast growing crime," Glasser said.

These are difficult crimes to prosecute because of elite defense attorneys and the fact that jurors tend to see these offenses as less serious than ones that directly hurt people.

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