What Credit Card Companies Don’t Want You To Know

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-03-2513

Even A Torn Up Credit Card Application Can Bite You.

This is an older story, and you may have seen this already but I found this too enticing to talk about, even if for the umpteenth time. If you haven’t, then cool: this should be a treat! At the very least, check out the video below.

There’s this guy named Rob Cockerham from cockeyed.com who has made it to primetime television’s 20/20 with a little “test” he came up with to prove that everyone needs to buy a shredder right now. He wanted to see what would happen if he tore up a credit card application in incredibly teeny-weeny pieces and paste it back together… in a way that looked really questionable.

Not only that, he changed the address on it to see if the company would mail a new card to an address that wasn’t the original one on the application, and listed his cell phone on the application to make it even more suspicious. And it all worked. Not long after, he got a new credit card from Chase — it was as simple as that.

The credit card company has defended itself by saying the address Cockerham used was a former residence tied to his name in their records and that regardless of the state of the application, Cockerham would have received the card anyway. Still, when you hear about things like these, you wonder what goes on behind credit card company doors.

Some facts that made me go hmmmmm:

Scary Facts About The Credit Card Industry

  • Pranksters are able to get away with receiving brand spanking new credit cards even by applying with nonsensical names such as “Never Waste Trees”.
  • Alan Greenspan testified before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee at one point stating that “dogs, cats, and moose are getting credit cards.” That is, people have successfully used the names of their children and pets to be able to open credit card accounts. So anything that has a pulse and a name can get a card. “Approve now, check later” is a recognized card industry policy.
  • Card companies will approve anyone, even those with “Stop sending me these” notes. They think people will change their minds after they actually get the plastic.
  • Torn up credit cards aren’t that unusual, apparently. There seems to be a solid connection between identity theft and methamphetamine addiction: meth users can stay awake for way over a day and are known to obsessively put together torn documents for the purpose of id thievery.
  • Credit card history has it that in the 1960s, people were mailed unsolicited credit cards that were immediately usable, and this led to rampant crimes. Congress changed things in the 1970s to prevent the mailing of live cards and instead allowed for credit card applications to snake their way into our mailboxes, and that’s been the status quo ever since.

Given all that, I’m more paranoid than ever. But I’ve done a few things to try to feel more secure:

    (1) I’ve acquired a new mailbox that has a lock in it.

    (2) I’ve upgraded my shredder to the kind that minces paper into confetti (rather than strips). I’m sure hoping that my trusty Fellowes Cross-Cut shredder will hold up to all the paper I feed it.

    (3) I shred anything that has our identity on it, such as a name or address. And I mean ANYTHING.

I hope that my small investment of more time and effort towards protecting our identities will keep our names safe. There’s certainly more that can be done in this regard, but for now, this is a start.

This post was based on this very interesting article at MSNBC’s The Red Tape Chronicles.

Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

frugal zeitgeist March 25, 2007 at 9:15 am

I’ve had a crosscut shredder for years for exactly the reasons described in your post.

Scary anecdote: one day I was in the bank’s ATM center on the weekend and I saw a woman come in and head straight for the trash can. No security guard was present; the woman proceeded to paw through the garbage and extract copies of deposit slips! I wasn’t going to challenge her because she was a big, mean-looking lady and I’m not. Nevertheless, I walked out of there with one important reminder: never, never, never put anything with your name or account number in the garbage!!

Silicon Valley Blogger March 25, 2007 at 10:13 am

Yikes! Even those receipts that have only 2 to 4 of the last digits of your account seem to be way too interesting for some people. It’s way too easy to feel secure about receipts like this.

But really, how easy is it to decode the blanked out digits of your credit card or social security number?

ispf March 25, 2007 at 9:21 pm

wow!!! That’s scary. Thanks for the link to the video – I had not seen it before!

To add to what “frugal zeitgeist” had to say, please check your credit card receipt at restaurants before throwing it away. I travelling some time back, and was surprised that some of the restaurants print the *full credit card number* on the receipt. I am paranoid about my mail, but never paid attention to the restaurant receipts until someone pointed it out to me!!!

limeade March 26, 2007 at 6:40 am

Adding to what’s been said, even papers, offers, receipts and such with partial account numbers should be suspect and treated carefully. I’ve seen the last 4 digits of my social on things and I’ve seen the first 5 digits on others.

It’s already easy for people to get your numbers, so why make it even easier for them.


credit card guide April 26, 2007 at 4:25 am

Thanks for the post and the video! I have never read this story before. Very interesting experiment to know some facts about the credit companies policy.

credit card adviser May 15, 2007 at 3:46 am

I’ve read this story a month ago or so and i was just shocked at the credit card companies about their disorder and connivance in suchlike matters. They grip at any sound credit card application in their pursue of earnings and they’ll deal with fraud later which by the way also contributes to their funds.

Jess November 9, 2007 at 5:03 am

I’ve read your post and I’m really shocked! I have never thought that creedit card industry has so many drawbacks! Now I wonder, if it is really worth to get a credit card.

Chandler AZ September 10, 2009 at 4:04 pm

I had not heard of this “test” before, but that’s pretty frightening. I tend to shred anything and everything- even if it only has a name. If nothing else, it works well for composting or packaging!

Geoff September 1, 2011 at 11:40 am

I find it amusing that credit card companies will sometimes offer to lower the interest rate or even waive interest for a certain amount of time. They’ll do almost anything to keep the customer, knowing that in the long term they’ll make even more money from him.

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