Car break-in exposes larger crime problem

A morning at the Shelby Farms Dog Run turned into a crash course in credit card theft for one Mid-South resident.  Laurie Cheshire was with her dog in the park when someone stole her purse out of her car.

"My checks were in there.  My wallet with my cards were in there.  My I.D. was in there," she said.  "Everything was in my purse.  My whole life was in my purse.  All of my identity."

Cheshire canceled her credit cards, but not before the crooks racked up more than a dozen charges on her credit and debit cards.  It all happened in less than two hours.  In all, they were used at a Circle K in Cordova, an Amoco in Frayser, as well as a BP, a Mapco Express, and an Exxon.

Sgt. Vince Higgins, spokesperson for the Memphis Police Department, said these "fill-ups" are a growing problem, with an unexpected twist.  Often thieves will use stolen cards in a money making scheme, offering to fill tanks for gas station customers at a discounted cash rate.  The thieves use the stolen card to make the purchase, and pocket the cash.

"Don't buy into this free or discounted gas," Higgins said. "Do it the lawful way, because you could be implicated."  Motorists who purchase gas in this way from thieves risk "accessory after the fact" charges from police.

In the end, Higgins said, Cheshire was robbed twice:  Once by the person who broke into her car, and once by drivers looking for a good deal at the pump.

Officials stress that you should never leave valuables such as credit cards and checkbooks in your car, even for a short period of time.