Ripped Up Over Credit
Rob Cockerham is a longtime blogger from Sacramento. On cockeyed.com, the 37-year-old digital printer/Web editor has a lot of fun, pulling pranks (such as putting phony menus in some TGIF restaurants) and conducting "science experiments" (dissecting a Hot Pocket). His specialty, though, is determining how much is inside a particular product. (A package of ramen, for example, has enough noodles to add up to 170 feet when each noodle is stretched out. I know you needed to know that.).
Cockerham's curiosity knows no bounds, as he seems to test anything and everything. So, it's no surprise he decided to see what would happen if he submitted a torn-up credit-card application. As he records the story on his blog, Cockerham took one of the many unsolicited offers he got in the mail, ripped it into pieces, then taped it back together and filled it out. Instead of his own address, he used his parents. And he listed his cell phone as his contact number on his application for a Chase MasterCard.
He figured he'd never get a new card because both Chase and government Web sites tell consumers to tear up any unwanted credit solicitations to avoid identity theft. But Cockerham got a brand new card within weeks. Cockerham said he was surprised--and angry, because his card also came with a balance transfer check that he could use for up to $5,000. "It made me really examine what the credit-card company has to lose by sending out a credit-card to the wrong person. I guess they don't have a lot to lose if there's a case of identity theft. It's only a small loss or only a small chance that fraud is taking place in that way," he said in a telephone interview a few days ago.
Chase spokesman Paul Hartwick, in an interview, said the company acted appropriately: For privacy reasons, he declined to speak specifically about Cockerham's application but said: "When Chase receives an application for credit, we are legally obligated to appropriately handle it, regardless of the condition." He said the application goes "through a series of sophisticated credit and fraud reviews, checking for complete and accurate information. If all the information checks out and passes reviews, we issue a card." In a formal statement, Hartwick added in an e-mail: "Although this particular incident clearly is an Internet prank, Chase takes these matters extremely seriously and always seeks to improve its processes to serve and protect our cardmembers. Chase is actively involved in fraud protection. We use sophisticated systems to monitor and detect fraudulent activity."
Where does that leave Cockerham? He says that until recently, he's never been a big advocate of shredders. "I thought it was a scare tactic" drummed up by shredder manufacturers. But now, he writes on his blog: "You should probably buy a shredder today." As he explained in the phone interview, the unsolicited credit-card offers "are a ticking time bomb. You have to take some extra step to get rid of them, which is really bothersome because you didn't ask for them in the first place."
Of course you can--and should--sign up to stop getting these solicitations in the first place. I've written about this before in an earlier blog posting. You can stop these unwanted offers by "opting out." via the opt-out Web site or by calling the toll-free number: 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).
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