chicago parking lot cta scam homeless credit cards

I read an article yesterday about a guy that was caught with a razor blade as he was cutting people’s pockets on the CTA L train in Chicago, in order to gain access to their wallets. It reminded me of a couple months ago when I ran into a pretty crafty homeless guy hanging around a pay-to-park lot in the city. I know, I know, it’s not really a “scam”, but the article title sounded better this way.

It was a Sunday morning and we were headed to brunch in the River North area of Chicago. Parking can be a pain in the ass over there, so we decided to just pay to park in a lot around the corner from where we were going to eat. It wasn’t one of those lots where you pay, they come out, shove a fire hose up your ass, turn it on full blast, let you spin around for a while, then make you pay $30 to park for 2 hours… it was very reasonable, I think like $6 for a couple hours. So knowing that we weren’t going leave there with sore asses and sore wallets, we parked the car and made our way over to the pay box. At this lot, you pay at the box, using your credit card, then place the printed ticket on your dash and that’s it. Pretty simple.

As we walked to the pay box we noticed a homeless man hanging around with a bunch of pieces of paper in his hands. We weren’t quite sure what they were, but I knew we were about to find out. As we got a bit closer he pulled out a credit card and put it in the pay box and retrieved a parking receipt. Once we got to the machine he offered us the receipt in exchange for less money than it would have cost us to just buy our own. Not being one to trust a man that smells like old garbage and hepatitis I passed on his offer and used my own credit card to purchase a ticket and we went about our business. Obviously he was a little upset that we didn’t want to purchase any of his fine wares, but it was clearly a scam… but not what I had initially thought.

I initially thought they were just old parking receipts that he found and was trying to pawn off as legit ones, but the more I thought about it the more I figured it out. This guy got his hands on a stolen credit card and was using a semi-ingenious method to retrieve cash from said card. Since he couldn’t just take the card into a store and try to buy food or whatever, seeing as how it was stolen, he was purchasing something that didn’t require a signature and had nobody monitoring it… a parking lot pay box. Once he had the parking tickets from the machine he would turn around and sell them for a couple bucks cheaper in order to regain cash from the transaction. So by the time the owner of the credit card realized it was stolen, this guy would have already made off with a handful of charges and a couple bucks in his pocket.

But think about it, while this is a smart way to get money off of a stolen credit card if you’re that desperate, wouldn’t it be more lucrative to scam the CTA instead of parking lots? With the parking lots you have to use the parking receipt within a certain time frame as there is a time stamp on the receipt, but if you were to just go to those CTA Express machines that accept credit cards, you could get a bunch of fare cards and sell those for cheaper. It’s easy to verify the amount on the card, all you have to do is put it back in the machine and it’ll tell you how much is there, so people can’t claim they were ripped off. I don’t know, if I were homeless and found myself in possession of a stolen credit card I think I would go the CTA route instead of the parking lot route, but thankfully I am not homeless and don’t need to resort to these methods.

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