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Thieves Buy $31,000 of Gas With Government Credit Card

Christine DiGangi

In April 2012, a credit card belonging to a county government in western Pennsylvania was reported stolen, but the card was never canceled. As a result, thieves were able to use the county’s credit card to buy more than $31,000 of fuel from local gas stations.

This went on until May 2013.

Why or how the scheme continued for so long is unclear.

“Somebody somewhere wasn’t paying enough attention,” says Gerri Detweiler, Credit.com’s Director of Consumer Education. Depending on the county’s credit card agreement, it may be liable for those charges, she said.

Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, consumers aren’t responsible for fraudulent charges made to a personal credit card, but those same protections don’t apply to business cards.

Detweiler gave the example of a small business owner who hired a driver and gave him a company card to pay for gas. When the employee stopped working for him, the employee continued to use the card for personal expenses, and the employer had to foot the bill.

“The owner of the company was liable for those because of the way his agreement read, because he had authorized this employee to use the card,” she said.

The investigation in Pennsylvania is ongoing, according to WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh. No arrests have been made, but police have video records of multiple people using the card to purchase more than 9,000 gallons of regular and diesel fuel, the station reported.

Detweiler said it’s important to ask a card issuer to cancel a stolen credit card, and to do so in writing. Employers should closely monitor the bank statements of company accounts to detect any unauthorized purchases. (If you’re worried that a stolen credit card could be impacting your credit, you can use a free tool like Credit.com’s Credit Report Card to monitor your credit for unexplained changes. If something doesn’t seem right, you can dig deeper and get your three credit reports for free once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com.)

“If you give a card to an employee or a co-worker, you will be responsible for those charges,” she said. “You want to make sure you thoroughly understand the card agreement.”

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