An accused credit card thief picked the wrong guy when she used FOX 4 consumer reporter Steve Noviello's Visa account to check into a North Texas hotel.
Farah Parks is accused of stealing Noviello’s credit card information, and Noviello recently had a face-to-face encounter with her.
Thanks to a fraud alert he placed on his account, he got a notice that someone may be trying to use his card to pay for a room at the Hilton Garden Inn in Richardson.
The chance to track the suspect down is what prompted Noviello to investigate.
After he contacted Visa, he called the Hilton, explained the situation and asked if anyone had checked in using his name.
The clerk said no, so Noviello asked him to run his credit card number against any recent payments.
Bingo. Someone had checked in to room 239 -- Farah Parks.
At check-in, she presented a card with her name on it.
When the magnetic strip wouldn't swipe, the account number was entered manually
It turns out that account number was Noviello’s account number.
It's all spelled out in a police report. Noviello called police, sent them to Parks’ hotel room.
Noviello also headed to the hotel himself to try and meet Parks.
While he couldn't get permission for a police to facilitate a meeting, the situation was unfolding in a public space. So, armed with his iPhone and Parks’ room number, he went upstairs and waited for Parks to come to him.
When Parks came out of the room in handcuffs and with police, Noviello had some questions for her.
“Good morning…did you use my credit card number to check into your room?” Noviello said to Parks.
“Your credit card?” said Parks.
Noviello: “Are you Farah?”
Parks: “I am Farah, but I did not use your credit card. I used a card with my name on it.”
Noviello: “How did you pay to get in to the room?”
Parks: “I'm not gonna talk to you.”
Noviello: “Can you help other consumers by letting us know how you did this? Did you use it online?”
Parks: “I actually got it from someone else.”
Noviello” “Where did you get it?”
Parks: “I'm not gonna talk about that.”
Noviello: “I’m hoping you can help me to protect other people from this happening to them, too.”
Then, Noviello, Parks and police all stepped into an elevator.
“We’ve got a quick ride down, Farah,” said Noviello. “I’d love your help. I’ve got charges with your name on it for your room for three days.”
Parks didn’t say anything.
Noviello: “I’d love for you to be able to help me, Farah. Where are you from? Are you local?”
Parks: “I've just made some bad choices in my life. I’m aware of that and I apologize.”
Noviello: “OK, I appreciate your apology and I’m just hoping you might be able to help me…I’m gonna come and make a request to come visit you after you get arrested and we can talk, OK?”
Parks declined Noviello’s request for that jailhouse interview
Noviello was hoping that Parks might shed some light on what made him, a guy who makes a living protecting consumers, a good mark and how she got his credit card number.
The fact is, everyone’s a target. As long as we use credit, we can only minimize risk.
ID theft can happen at any time, but the chance to meet the person who's gained access to your account?
That only comes once.
Parks has only been charged with a crime at this point; she hasn’t been convicted.
One way to minimize loss and risk is to choose credit instead of debit at checkout for an added layer of protection, or do what Noviello did: place a fraud alert on your credit or even a freeze.
It will make it more difficult for you to open new lines of credit yourself, but also proved pretty powerful when it comes to catching someone in the act.
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