By Jeff Deminski

Yesterday, a New York man admitted his role in a 9 year credit card fraud scheme that ultimately caused $200 million in losses and is said to be the largest ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department. Other defendants involved are from Pennsylvania and, of course, New Jersey. But its reach was massive. Federal prosecutors say millions of dollars were wired to Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, China, India and other countries. By the numbers, 7,000 fake identities, 1,800 fake mailing addresses, 25,000 fake credit cards.

About 7 years ago, I had a credit card number stolen in a restaurant by one of those hand held skimmers that copies it. Fake physical cards were done up and were being used to buy high end electronics in stores in Pennsylvania, where I hadn't set foot in some time. I got the call, charges were waived. I explained I knew where this theft had occurred. The only place my card was used in months was that one restaurant. The credit card company told me it was up to them to follow up on it with police, and I'm sure they never did. These things end up as cost of doing business. It's a shame.

Even when there's nothing sinister going on, just the possibility of credit card theft still causes a pain in the ass factor. Recently I was down in Florida to see my kids. My credit card was shut down by their fraud department because of "unusual activity." The only unusual activity was that I didn't inform them ahead of time that for a day and a half I'd be using the card out of state, so they shut it down and I couldn't get them to reactivate it for the rest of the weekend even though they said they were supposed to. Thank God I brought cash, too. And thank God they shut down my card in time to stop that $8.14 McDonald's happy meal heist I was trying to pull.

Back to the theft. How pervasive a problem is it? I'm starting to think, at this point, this has happened to every card holder in America.

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