Initially I tried to get this story into the Victor Valley Daily Press and the Barstow Desert Dispatch for two reasons.
1) As a means of warning business owners of a counterfeit credit card scam that is becoming very widespread because the credit card rules are stacked against us business owners, and
2) to show that our Sheriff’s Department in San Bernardino under the direction of John McMahon is not concerned about solving crime, rather, they are concerned about revenue. Unfortunately, even though the reporter received from me, all the documentation and video to verify the accuracy of this article, the management from the publisher on down at the VVDP just does not seem to have the mental capability to grasp the entire story and therefore was not interested in printing it even though it could save business owners untold amounts of money. Fortunately, we have online newspapers that are quickly taking the place of outdated printed newspapers and the even more outdated management of the printed newspapers.
This story of counterfeit credit cards begins on December 5, 2013 when Gary Owens entered my tool store and purchased $168.48 worth of tools. His credit card would not scan so after verifying his signature with his driver license and matching the photo on his driver license, we manually punched in the credit card number and all pertinent information, the credit card company then authorized the purchase and gave us an approval code. We were paid for the purchase the next day by our bank. On December 23, 2013 Gary Owens returned and purchased $284.65 worth of tools. Again his card would not scan, we again matched his driver license signature and picture again and all matched. As an added measure of security, we have surveillance video at our store that captured Owens and the license plate 2SDN467 on his white 1990 Cadillac. The bank again approved the sale and issued and authorization code. They paid us the next day as is the norm.
Then on December 24, 2013 we were notified by our bank that there was a chargeback of $168.48 because the customer stated that he had not ever been in our store. As we had surveillance of Owens signing the receipt, loading his car, his driver license number, his vehicle license plate number, and had verified his signature on both receipts, we were not concerned. I sent all the information to the bank and they informed me that unless a business also has the old styled carbon bank issued receipt for the transaction, the Visa / MC company will NOT honor the sale and the merchant will take full responsibility AND loss! Adding insult to injury there is a $25.00 “charge back” fee that our own bank charges! Keep in mind, these are NOT your bank’s rules, these are Visa / Mastercard rules. All of my yelling, threatening, and screaming did no good. When punching in the credit card number, you MUST use the old fashioned carbon receipts on the old style manual slider machine or all liability falls on you!
On January 27, 2014 we received another chargeback for Gary Owens’ December 23, 2014 purchase of $ 284.65. Again, Visa/Mastercard would not budge on their rules. Between the chargebacks and the chargeback fees, we are now out $503.13. After much research, I found out that one big problem I was up against was the fact that it was NOT Owens denying that he had been in my store. It turns out that his credit card was a counterfeit card using his name, but someone else’s number and security code on it. The actual owner of the card number was the one [rightfully] insisting that they had made no purchases in my store.
After the first chargeback, I had contacted the San Bernardino County Sheriff Department as my store is in the unincorporated area of Barstow. The responding officer was extremely professional and concerned. She took all my information and stayed in touch with me until the case moved to the detective department. After that, there was no further contact from the Sheriff Department. I went to the department to find out what was going on with the case only to be told that they had no idea what I was talking about. They finally found reference to the case but told me that it was all being handled at the Apple Valley branch because Owen’s had committed even more crimes there. Three calls and messages left to the Apple Valley department went unanswered. Finally after getting weeks of the run-around, I made direct contact with our current and useless Sheriff John McMahon. Shortly after that, the Captain of the Apple Valley department called me and informed me that my case was not being handled by them and that I should contact the Barstow office. After contacting the Barstow office, a detective that was allegedly working my case came to my store and told me that they are doing everything they can to resolve the crime, but that the cases had to be “prioritized” by importance. I questioned why there is enough money to “prioritize” DUI check points, gun buy backs, and prescription drug take backs, but the same 20 – 25 officers at each of these events could not be “prioritized” to find real criminals? The detective had no answer for this and has not been in contact with me since.
In the interim, I found out on my own that when Owens committed these crimes at my store, he was driving the 1990 Cadilac that he had sold two months prior. To me, this would indicate perhaps an accomplice to the crimes. I then found out that the new owner of the car and potential accomplice lives on 10th street in Victorville. It also occurred to me that perhaps it was NOT a stolen card number that Owens had used to counterfeit (including the 3 digit security code) a card for himself, but maybe the real card belonged to his potential accomplice. I reported my findings to the Barstow branch of the Sheriff Department. They basically yawned. Perhaps they were exhausted from all the DUI check points, Gun Buy Backs, and Prescription Drug Take Backs that they were manning instead of looking for criminals.
Current Sheriff who was selected to office by his cronies on the Board of Supervisors (he was not elected into office) loves his useless programs. DUI Check Points use the resources of about 20 – 25 officers to pull over maybe 300 innocent people that have done nothing wrong. IF on a rare occasion they actually catch one drunk driver, they have violated the rights of 299 others that have done nothing wrong! Gun Buy Backs have proven to be a waste of taxpayer dollars. They cannot buy “back” what was never theirs to begin with. 99% of the guns they buy “back” are inoperable, and finally, criminals don’t sell “back” their guns. They use them for crimes! Prescription Drug Take Backs are ridiculous in that you can take your old drugs back to the pharmacy or to a fire department and they will dispose of them. In the meantime, while all of these useless programs are going on, real criminals are committing crimes against the very taxpayers that support the Sheriff Department!
In 22 years of being in business, we have never had anyone try to steal from us. But with the economy doing so badly in the last five years, and with a totally useless Sheriff Department, thieves are coming out of the woodwork. In September of 2013 a transient came into our store while my daughter-in-law was alone. When she went into the back of the store to get something, the transient got a hold of her purse and took $250.00. We provided the Sheriff with surveillance of that also. They found the thief’s car at a local truck stop and impounded it after finding much stolen property and kiddie porn. Rather than wait for the perp to show up, the deputies were too tired and went home. Two days later the perp was seen by a deputy, but the deputy (by his own words) was to out of shape to give chase and by the time back up arrived, the thief escaped! The thief was apprehended in Shasta County a few days later and was found to have felony warrants out of Colorado. The San Bernardino County Sheriff Department waited 30 days to put a warrant out for the thief and by then he had already been transferred to Colorado. So it appears that laziness, obesity, and incompetence allowed yet another thief get away with stealing from business owners in San Bernardino County.
My advice to business owners in San Bernardino County is to do what I have done. 1) Make sure you understand all of the “hidden” rules about business, e.g. Visa / MC and banking rules. 2) Do not rely on the Sheriff Department to “protect and serve”. Do understand that although we have many good deputies on the force, they are working for management that does not have the people’s best interests at heart. Because the Sheriff Department is headed by incompetence and – in my opinion – corruption, the younger street deputies hands are tied when it comes to doing their job. 3) Arm yourself to the hilt and use whatever weaponry is necessary to protect your property and loved ones. 4) If you are the victim of theft or other crime, hire private security to get you property back by whatever means necessary. We must send a message to criminals. 5) Do not, for any reason vote for John McMahon for Sheriff. Vote for somebody competent that cares about the citizenry.