getting a call from a telemarketer who claims to be from a
credit card company. This person tells you how easy it is
to steal a credit card number, especially over the Internet.
He or she offers to sell you "protection" so you
wouldn't have to pay if thieves run up a huge tab on your
account. The person says that if you don't get this protection,
you'll have to foot the bill for any "unauthorized charges."
the kicker. You are asked: "May we have your credit card
number, please?" Later, a charge of between $199 and
$389 appears on your account, even if you didn't sign up for
Well, yes it is. The scheme was bogus and entirely unnecessary
(most major credit card companies protect you from fraudulent
charges). Still, thousands of Americans were victimized by
this scam or some version of it. An overwhelming majority
were among our nation's most vulnerable citizens: the elderly.
The victims lived across the country, from Massachusetts to
West Virginia to California and Hawaii. In all, they were
defrauded out of more than $12 million.
Would Engineer Such a Scheme? Philip Arcand and his wife,
Roberta Galway, that's who. Arcand wrote high-pressure scripts
to lure in victims, arranged for companies to make the pitch,
and set up front businesses to process the illegal monies.
Using their ill-gotten gains, the Canadian couple lived a
life of luxury. They owned two beautiful homes, one in British
Columbia and one in Las Vegas. They had a Mercedes, Corvette,
and Ferrari in their driveways. They took frequent trips around
the world. Both thought they could skirt justice by preying
on Americans thousands of miles away. They were wrong.
Down. Arcand and Galway were ultimately caught through
a combination of alert citizens, who reported their suspicions
and complaints to authorities, and a partnership of Canadian
and American law enforcement that relentlessly investigated
and pursued the criminals. The key players? The Royal Canadian
Mounted Police (RCMP), the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office,
and the Federal Trade Commission. All three participated in
a joint investigation through an RCMP telemarketing task force
called "Project Emptor." In August 2002, the couple
was arrested by FBI Agents while living in Las Vegas. The
case shows once again the increasing frequency of crime-border
crime -- and why international partnerships are crucial to
Doing Time. On November 17, Arcand was sentenced to
10 years in federal prison. Earlier, his wife Roberta Galway
had pled guilty and was sentenced to six months in jail for
her part in the scheme. Both are also expected to stand trial
in Alabama next year on a 158-count indictment by the Secret
Service. The couple also paid a $100,000 civil judgment in
a case initiated by the FTC.
Bottom Line: Don't give out your credit card number over
the telephone, unless you initiate the call. Check your account
statements carefully. Close all unused credit card accounts.
And if you think you have been scammed, report it to the FBI
or other law enforcement authorities!