Identity Theft

This Woman Allegedly Racked Up $22K on Her Church’s Credit Card

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A Florida woman was arrested June 2 on charges of grand theft and scheme to defraud, after investigators accused the former church secretary of using a church credit card to make nearly $22,000 of personal purchases, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

Linda D. Bischoff, 61, resigned as church secretary in 2013 after her hours were cut, and her replacement discovered discrepancies in the church’s financial records shortly after Bischoff’s departure. However, records related to the discrepancies were missing, and the church hired an accounting firm to conduct a forensic audit of the accounts.

The investigation revealed $21,802 of purchases allegedly made by Bischoff, and while remaining church records showed those purchases for the children’s ministry and other church needs, the church never received the items.

Bischoff allegedly used the card to buy food, clothing, appliances, a TV and home improvement items: $18,424 at Sam’s Club, $1,072 at Ace Hardware, $1,764 at Home Depot and $542 at Staples. There’s more: Investigators found evidence of unauthorized use of the church’s checking account. They discovered nine checks totaling $2,106 made payable to Bischoff.

The report didn’t say how long Bischoff worked at the church, so it’s unclear whether the discrepancies in the records occurred over a long period of time or were the result of an all-out spree. Either way, Bischoff has now been arrested and is being held on $20,000 bail.

Defrauding an employer is one of those crimes that unfolds slippery-slope style: Start with a little, and when no one notices, it’s easier to do it again and again, until it gets out of control. Sometimes the person is in debt and needs the money to get by, and they intend to repay what they take. Other times, it’s purely the temptation that results from having no one double-checking the books. From a business perspective, one of the best ways to prevent something like this is to have more than one person in charge of finances, so an individual’s actions can’t go unnoticed.

These situations are a lot like the ones where consumers have their credit cards stolen: If someone was monitoring credit card activity, the suspicious purchases would have been easily noticeable. Regularly checking your account activity should be one of your personal finance habits, in addition to getting your free annual credit reports and checking your credit scores — you can get two free scores at Credit.com, with updates every 30 days.

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