Saturday, January 10, 2015

So How Did Maura Steal the Credit Card?

Here's another question that remains unanswered.

How did Maura get her hands on the credit card number she stole from the student at UMass, which she used to order food?

As you may recall, at the time of her disappearance, Maura Murray was in trouble with the local police and prosecutors of Hadley, Mass, for credit card fraud.

When the police confronted her during their pizza-delivery-sting at Kennedy Hall, Maura admitted to stealing another girl's credit card number. She said she got it off a receipt she found in the trash. But when police located the receipt, the number was not on it. They asked Maura to give them the paper she kept the number on, and when she handed it over to police, they noticed there were several other numbers on there as well.

It's important to note, here, too that for those in favor of the "Maura is still alive" theory, this incident shows she is comfortable with stealing someone else's identity.

So, in 2004, how would someone like Maura get that credit card number? The best I can think of is by going through someone's purse at a gym.

Any other thoughts?

67 comments:

  1. I would suggest the art gallery is a possibility. It appears they sell tickets online now but I would imagine money changes hands at the door or somewhere otherwise within the building occasionally (do they sell art or just display it?).

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    1. I second this opinion. Also, she could have had a friend who worked in town and gave it to her. Retail is a good guess, though.

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    2. Hi Tyler.

      That is a really sharp connection you have made. It seems like a good avenue for Renner to explore.

      Nice to see you posting here. I hope things are good. Hope to see more here from you in the future.

      ~ John Green

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  2. Didn't Maura work dorm security? Did she steal the number from a lost purse that was turned into the security desk?

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    1. or maybe they took payments at the front desk for internet access or dorm related expenses?

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  3. Yeah, going thru purses at a party or something.

    If I recall, the girl whose # she stole lived in the same dorm (maybe even on the same floor?) So I'd guess it was something "closer to home" than the gym, but for sure something along those lines.

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  4. Does memory fail me? I seem to recall the victim commenting on this blog once and explaining how she got it. Am I crazy? I'll have to have a look at some old entries to see if I can find the comments I'm thinking of.

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    1. Hi Yuri.

      I hope you can find that source, be it here or elsewhere. I don't recall it, but I was not actively reading for a long period.

      ~ John Green

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    2. Yes, Yuri, I remember that as well! Seems some posts have been deleted here recently so not sure if you'll find it or not.

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    3. Hello,
      Are you referring to this post?

      "Ann MarieFebruary 6, 2014 at 7:32 AM
      It was my credit card that she used. She took the numbers off of a receipt that was taped to a pizza box in our dorm trash room. After I reported the incident the bank credited me back the money immediately and I never though about it again until she went missing. I only knew who they caught because I happened to be outside her room when the police went in. Mr Renner is correct, it was several weeks before I noticed because she ordered food from all the same places I ate at until she finally ordered from a place that I had never been to before. Someone who lived on the same floor as her told me they thought she was bulimic. What a horrible, sad story. It's too bad her family and the people who love her haven't been able to get any closure after all these years."

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  5. There was a time when some places printed the entire credit card number your receipt. I actually think it is possible to have dug one out of the trash, BUT to have several to me indicates more planning that opportunism.

    Did Maura, as part of security, have access to a master key to all the dorm rooms?

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    1. I can say with certainty she would not have such a key. She merely watched a desk/door, there is no reason to grant her that kind of access.

      My CC# was stolen off of a Pizza Hut receipt in 2006. It was illegal by then but they hadn't replaced their receipt printers. In 2004 it would not have been unusual. However, the post above indicates the number was not on the receipt.

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    2. I am not saying that she had such a key as part of her job, what I am wondering is if she had reasonable ACCESS to such a key. For example did the supervisor have one, and was that supervisor perhaps lax about where she left it around the other people that worked security.

      But certainly credit card numbers were much easier to steal back then. The main reason I believe Maura's version is that she used it for food delivery. She used it the way a person would have perhaps felt comfortable using just number back then. When I was in college (in 2004), I would sometimes use my mom's credit card number to order food to my apartment when I was studying a lot or writing a paper (with her permission of course). But no one ONCE questioned it.

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  6. Didn't places still use the old slider machine in 2004 where it actually left an imprint of the name and the card number? In triplicate in some of the last places to give in to technology? I cant believe we relied on the integrity of cashiers and clerks even 11 years ago. I do believe that as the internet and e-commerce was rapidly emerging in 2004, those on the leading edge of techy advances (college students), would have easy access and new ways to use the card #'s while the rest of the world was still unaware of the potential.

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    1. Hi Bill.

      If I recall correctly, the slider was mostly out of use by then, but still around here or there. I was traveling on business quite a lot then and used my credit cards a lot, all over the country.

      ~ John Green

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    2. I seem to recall from that time period that there were receipts that issued the entire number that were NOT the old style slider types. It just printed the number on the receipt. That is one reason why a lot of places started asking for the little number on the back of the card.

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    3. Shoot, down here in Georgia I payed for something using one of those slider things in the last 2-3 years.

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  7. Was anyone else busted around the same time as Maura?

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  8. I also have to wonder if she DID use those other card numbers she had written down. I know that I would not necessarily notice something like that on my credit card bill. Indeed, I think a lot of people just pay the bill if it seems "right". I think a college kid is more likely to notice something like $20 being missing, but say Maura had a credit card from someone making good money. That person might not notice as much as $100 going missing.

    I once had my debit car stolen. They racked up around $150 at wal-mart in one spree, BUT had they just spent $15 every month for a year, I never would have noticed.

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    1. This is really interesting train of thought Rose.

      I think if she funded absconding via the use of stolen credit cards, she would have left a trail that may have been detected. But, of course, as you say, if she had enough of them (see Tyler's post above about where she could have gotten them) she might have been making smaller transactions against each of them that generally went unnoticed and were paid.

      ~ John Green

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  9. Also, it's possible police are mistaken and the receipt Maura used DID have the number - back in 2004 I believe some receipts still may have used the full number. They could have seen a later receipt from MAURA's use of the card that did not have the number, but the one Maura originally found in the trash (from a different restaurant) could have had the full number.

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  10. What is more satisfying : Stealing 5 dollars of make up. Ordering pizza on somebodys credit card. Or is it the RUSH of getting away with Cheating ?

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    1. ... of absconding away to a totally new life, totally undetected, and watching people like Renner and the CCU (and maybe her father) scratch their heads and wonder ....

      Not asserting that this happened, but instead running with your interesting train of though.

      ~ John Green

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    2. For an extreme thrill junkie (not saying Maura was one but she definitely had an inkling of that running through her personality) pulling off a disappearance into thin air like this would be one of the ultimate thrills, I would imagine.

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    3. It's definitely possible she was a thrill junkie. However, maybe she was too SCARED to steal large amounts of money at once. Maybe she figured people would not notice small amounts missing from their account, AND if she got caught stealing something so cheap from a store, she could possibly talk her way out of it. The less money stolen, the less important it seems.

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  11. in 2004 it was normal to have food delivered to a dorm ,maybe the security desk only would make sense and have the c.c. number attached to the food container .take care philip

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  12. Stealing someone's credit card shows Maura was willing to (essentially) steal someone's money for the purpose of buying stuff. I respectfully disagree with the premise in the post that it shows she was "comfortable with stealing someone else's identity." Lots of petty criminals steal credit card information. That doesn't make each of them a master of identity fraud.

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    1. Hi Joe.

      I was scrolling down and commenting a bit here and there, but with the intent of writing exactly what you did. Credit card fraud and identify theft are significantly different enterprises.

      ~ John Green

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    2. I still do not think that stealing an identity is necessary. There is huge misconception on this site about two major issues surrounding this case. 1. You can live under your own identity in the US and still go "undetected" so long as you do not put any bills in your name or get a driver's license in that state. You could still work a legit job under your own name and SSI and there would be no way for law enforcement to track you. 2. People who disappear do not have massive, insurmountable problems. There are people here constantly scratching their heads about what it was that made Maura feel the need to run off and start a new life. Well, if cases that we know about are anything to go by, then it did not have to be a big problem. Brenda Heist abandoned her children and started a new life because she was getting a divorce and was low on money. It was not her problems that inspired her to run away for good; it was her. It was just her.

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  13. I once brought up the thought of her being part of an identity theft ring and was crucified for it. I think it should at least be considered or looked at,

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    1. It is a reasonable idea JWB, in general. I wonder if there is a model for the kind of ring you are thinking about. Maybe a news item about one that has been busted up somewhere.

      It might still have been possible 10 years ago. By now though - in 2015 - I doubt you would see such rings. The real money, given the legal and technological protections now surrounding the use of the card and its number itself - is in hacking merchant and business accounts to get lots and lots of personal information, and then pick the identities that are most ripe to steal, such as someone who just died, or something like that.

      John

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    2. There has been identity theft issues at U mass that I read a while back when i did look into it but it was well after Maura disappeared. I will try and find the article again.

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    3. Thanks JWB. Would be interested to see it.

      ~ John Green

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  14. Off the top of my head a few ways come to mind of ways of obtaining card nunbers: 1) Maura could have been eating at the same restaurants as the theft victim, an unattended card or receipt is a prime target. 2) an unlocked car in the school parking lot, Maura parks next to it and sees a receipt. 3)the victim, if they lived in the same dorm area, Maura could have overheard the victim ordering an item via phone and remembered the numbers. 4)dumb luck of finding the numbers or dumb luck leading to a supply of discarded receipts on a regular basis, like a community trash bin. Quite a few ways come to mind if you think criminally enough.

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    1. I'll also throw out there, it's possible that dorm room doors were easy to pop the locks on with a credit card or something and she could have accessed them that way.

      I know that was the case when I was in college... If that was the case in Maura's dorm I imagine that would be a relatively easy thing to verify because it would probably have been common knowledge.

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    2. When I was in college, lots of people in the dorms left their rooms unlocked when they were in the bathroom or just hanging out in the common room.

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    3. When I was in college in New England in the 90s almost nobody locked their dorm room doors (granted, a decade earlier and at a much smaller school than UMass).

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    4. Well I am the same age as Maura and I went to state university about the size of Umass. I think that college students have generally been pretty lax about keeping their dorms unlocked.

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    5. Not sure why there is not more discussion of what I think is the single best idea of have heard about Maura got multiple credit card numbers ... that asserted by Tyler near the top of the comments.

      ~ John Green

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  15. The credit card and exp date was printed on the receipts back then and not encrypted. She found the receipt in the trash on the floor she lived in Kennedy. The victim lived on a higher floor. The friend of the victim lived on the same floor as Maura, and neither knew Maura.

    All this is documented in the documents section.

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    1. Actually, that is the story she told police. Police were able to locate the receipt. The credit card number was not on it. She lied. Again.

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    2. Please sate your sources. Where was it stated that the police found the receipt and that it did not include the number? Was this in the document section?

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  16. For my money, the most insightful comment against this post was made by Tyler, near the top of the threads. Her work at the art gallery ...

    ~ John Green

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    1. I'm assuming students came down to the security desk to retrieve ordered food. Good thought about the credit card info being posted with food receipt. If it was a small pizza joint, etc. some still did display the whole # until replaced with newer equipment....or when computers are down....businesses still have the card slider. I just had one used on my card back in September 2014 at a conference because the Internet was down. As far as the art gallery....does anyone have the woman's contact info that posted here? One could simply ask her if she ever used the art gallery in any way that would've meant giving her credit card info. Even if Maura didn't get the card # for the particular woman from the art gallery, doesn't mean she didn't get other card info from there. She could've had multiple sources. I bet she thought she'd never get caught in a big dormitory on a big campus. Wonder whose name she signed on the receipts?

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  17. There's also the possibility that Maura did not need to rely on her memory because she happened to overhear the cardholder order something while she (Maura) happened to have pen and paper in hand. Having lived in dorms in the mid-2000s, I can recall that people did not go to a great deal of effort to keep their telephone conversations private.

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  18. I hope this comment isn't so sexist that it's not constructive...

    The handwriting on the evidentiary cc receipts isn't very feminine and the tips are less than compassionate -- is there a guy involved with this enterprise?

    Just a thought.

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  19. @john888green- your wish is my command! I have some thoughts re: the art gallery theory:

    First off, I think I may have missed information regarding her working at an art gallery, despite my years of lurking on this blog. Can someone please direct me to this post?

    On that note, I was once a poor college student and I would never consider buying art. How many college kids were actually buying art? In order for this theory to be true, the credit card victims in question would have had to make a purchase from the art gallery, and I just can't picture corge students struggling to survive purchasing art for what...their dorms?

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    1. The gallery requires payment to enter. At least for the general public. I'm not sure about UMASS students. They sell tickets online now. But I would assume you could also pay at the door.

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    2. UMass has all kinds of students, some from very wealthy families. I'm sure many students had the funds to buy art. I was looking up something on the college newspaper website and ran across an article about how some parents buys houses for their kids at Amherst, then sell them when they graduate. There is A LOT of money rolling around that campus.

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  20. For a long time, gas stations were notorious for printing full credit card numbers on receipts. Maura could have gone to a gas station other students used and just pulled them out of the trash. Even in 2004 I wouldn't be surprised if some gas stations still did this.

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  21. When she was working at the security desk, there would have been a lot of pizza delivery drivers dropping off orders. The driver probably wouldn't be able to bring the pizza to individual rooms. The students would likely have to meet the driver in the lobby. Student takes pizza, throws receipt in trash.

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    1. I believe this is the correct scenario.

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    2. Wow Frank. This, like Tyler's idea above, is a CAPITAL idea. Good thinking.

      But I still think the receipts did not contain the full numbers however.

      ~ John Green

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  22. Whenever I have ordered over the phone I've had to give the 3 digit or so security code on the back of the card located next to the signature. Maybe I haven't read correctly but I haven't seen that code mentioned. I would think for someone to use a card and security code together would show that at some point that Maura may have had the card in her possession to at least get that piece of information and then got rid of the card or put it back where it belonged. If I were to just put my card numbers down right now without any further credentials it'd be a pretty slim chance anyone could use the numbers. Maybe I'm wrong.

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    1. You did not as much in 2004.

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    2. Back in 2004 one was not required to give the three digit pin number when ordering with credit card--this is something that has happened in the last few years.

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. Aha! I am not crazy.The victim says it was off of a receipt, if this is indeed a legitimate comment. It is on this post-- http://mauramurray.blogspot.com/2012/01/maura-used-stolen-credit-card-number.html

    The comment--
    Ann Marie February 6, 2014 at 7:32 AM
    It was my credit card that she used. She took the numbers off of a receipt that was taped to a pizza box in our dorm trash room. After I reported the incident the bank credited me back the money immediately and I never though about it again until she went missing. I only knew who they caught because I happened to be outside her room when the police went in. Mr Renner is correct, it was several weeks before I noticed because she ordered food from all the same places I ate at until she finally ordered from a place that I had never been to before. Someone who lived on the same floor as her told me they thought she was bulimic. What a horrible, sad story. It's too bad her family and the people who love her haven't been able to get any closure after all these years.


    Renner asked her to contact him... I wonder if she ever did.

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  25. This was not the link I was looking for but somewhat interesting anyway although before 2004
    http://www.blogiversity.org/blogs/identitytheft/archive/2009/08.aspx

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  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  27. I went to a university in New England around the same time.

    One of my roommates was on the soccer team. Upperclassmen often provided underage teammates with fake IDs. (Not dupes, but legitimate licenses and military IDs acquired from who knows where.)

    Could there have been a UMASS team into something like this but heavier? Sharing credit card numbers within the group?

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  28. Wasn't there a period of time when if you ordered delivery they would use a pen to rub your card number on the receipt to prove you had it? I remember it happening for awhile but not I can't remember what time frame. If that was done she could have found the card print in the trash

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  29. What about her "contact" at Domino's Pizza? She had very short conversations with somebody there, and they could have been giving her credit card numbers from pizza orders. Could Maura have been selling credit card numbers on the side?

    That's not as far-fetched as you might think. When I was in college and living off-campus in an apartment, a college student, who was also the maintenance man for the apartment complex, was attempting to sell the master key to all of the apartments to the highest bidder. I moved as soon as I found out about it.

    Selling credit card numbers could get her into big trouble with LE, and she would have been around some very unsavory characters if she was doing that.

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