Ever find a $5 bill on the sidewalk as a child? Maybe no one was around to ask if it belonged to him or her, it’s just sitting there, so you take it. Perhaps you used it to to buy a snack or a drink.
Now imagine that $5 is a credit card. A 9-year-old boy in Pennsylvania found a lost credit card and used it to do a little shopping, the Patriot-News reports, and the police are investigating the incident as theft.
The police haven’t released many details in the case, but they’re saying the boy used a credit card he found on the sidewalk (which belonged to a North Carolina woman) to make purchases at a gas station and a pizza place. The amount he spent hasn’t been disclosed.
Finding a credit card is different from coming upon lost cash, because there’s a clear owner to whom it can be returned and the fraud has a much higher limit ($5 is $5, but a credit card can be the key to thousands of dollars worth of fraudulent purchases). Would a 9-year-old understand that difference? Would he know that credit card activity can be tracked, and the police could find him? Would he even know using a lost credit card is wrong? It’s hard to know.
There’s a lot of strangeness to this episode. What was this kid doing that he was walking around town and able to go on a little shopping spree, presumably by himself? Then there’s the part of the story where cashiers allow a 9-year-old to use a credit card, which seems odd. Perhaps the workers thought the card belonged to a parent, and he had access to it for emergencies.
Credit card fraud is an increasingly common occurrence, but if you check your card activity regularly, you can prevent it from getting out of control and potentially damaging your credit. Your credit score can also serve as a fraud detector, because if you routinely check it and notice a sudden score change, you should check your accounts for signs of unauthorized activity. You can get two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.
More on Identity Theft:
- Identity Theft: What You Need to Know
- How Can You Tell If Your Identity Has Been Stolen?
- What Should I Do If I’m a Victim of Identity Theft?