Identity Thief Forgets to Change Shipping Address, Sends Victims His Loot

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Debit card theft

A tip for would-be identity thieves: When you buy a bunch of pricey merchandise with a stolen card number, make sure you don't accidentally ship the stolen goods to your victims.

That's evidently what one thief did after stealing the debit card number of an Anchorage, Alaska, couple. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Chris and Susie Lindford got a call from Credit Union 1 informing them that someone had stolen their debit card number and racked up an impressive $5,000 in charges in about an hour. The credit union quickly cancelled the card and refunded the money; the Linfords got on with their lives, probably under the assumption that the thief had made off with a rich bounty of merchandise.

And then the packages started arriving on their doorstep: stereo equipment, sports memorabilia, martial arts gear and women's jackets, among other items. Whoever stole the card apparently used the card's billing address as the shipping address, meaning the Lindfords wound up getting the merchandise ordered with their stolen card.

It's unclear how this happened. Most retail sites have a box you can check that automatically fills in your billing address as your shipping address, so it's possible that the thief checked it without thinking through the implications. Another possibility is that the thief planned to steal the packages off the Linfords' front porch. But the Daily News notes that Susie Linford traced the orders back to phone numbers and IP addresses in Kansas and Illinois (both of which are around 3,600 miles from Anchorage), which makes the latter scenario unlikely.

In any case, the Linfords should count themselves lucky -- not because they got a bunch of free merchandise (which they'll probably send back to the retailers), but because their credit union was so good about spotting the fraud and getting them their money back. While federal law caps cardholders' liability for credit card fraud at $50, you can be liable for as much as $500 for fraudulent purchases made on a stolen debit card. But Credit Union 1 evidently has a zero-liability policy for debit card fraud, and it sounds like the Linfords got the money back in their account in a timely manner.

Here are some of the "gifts" shipped to the Linfords' home, according to the Daily News:
  • A JVC car stereo
  • A radar detector
  • A baseball bat signed by Chipper Jones
  • An autographed portrait of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
  • Several North Face jackets
  • A linen scrapbook
  • Women's jackets from a store in New Jersey
  • Martials arts gloves and shin pads

The thief also "tried to join a fruit of the month club," but apparently the Lindfords never got any fruit.

Thief Steals Debit Card, Sends Gifts to Couple's Home

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.

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