Is Someone Stealing Pennies From Your Bank Account?
It May Be “Salami Slicing.” It May Be Petty Theft.
The latest identity theft scheme doesn’t aim to empty your debit account or charge you to the credit limit—not yet anyway. According to The Boston Globe, at least 800 credit and debit cardholders have reported finding tiny fraudulent charges on their statements in recent weeks.
The charges range from 21 to 48 cents, and are billed under at two phony business names: “Adele Services” and “GFDL.”
The mysterious charges have lead to a range of speculation over the nature of the scam. Some think that the small charges are meant to test the validity of a registry of stolen credit card numbers which may have been resold by the original thieves. If the theory is correct, those whose cards have already been charged can probably expect to be targeted for much larger amounts down the line.
A Slice of Salami
A less likely theory parallels the scam attempted by the main characters in the movie “Office Space,” which featured three disgruntled computer programmers who attempt to slowly embezzle money from their company, pennies at a time. The scheme is sometimes referred to as “salami slicing”, but usually targets businesses or customers rather than an unconnected group of individuals.
If this theory holds, those who fail to notice that their accounts have been compromised will continue to be targeted for small amounts of money indefinitely. Most likely, the thieves would have to create new false companies with each wave of thefts.
Plan of Action
Regardless of the intent of the perpetrators, the course of action for those who notice small, unexpected charges on their debit and credit card statements is the same:
- Report the charges to your bank or other financial institution.
- Report your card stolen so that you can be issued a new credit card and credit card number.
As always, it’s important for everyone to pick carefully through their statements each month (if not more frequently,) looking for charges they don’t recognize. Whether a questionable charge is 1 cent, $1, or $100, it should always be treated as a potentially serious problem.