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Safeway Club Card Leads to Bogus Arson Arrest

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the if-you're-innocent-you-have-nothing-to-fear dept.

Privacy 505

Richard M. Smith writes "Tukwila, Washington firefighter, Philip Scott Lyons found out the hard way that supermarket loyalty cards come with a huge price. Lyons was arrested last August and charged with attempted arson. Police alleged at the time that Lyons tried to set fire to his own house while his wife and children were inside. According to KOMO-TV and the Seattle Times, a major piece of evidence used against Lyons in his arrest was the record of his supermarket purchases that he made with his Safeway Club Card. Police investigators had discovered that his Club Card was used to buy fire starters of the same type used in the arson attempt. For Lyons, the story did have a happy ending. All charges were dropped against him in January 2005 because another person stepped forward saying he or she set the fire and not Lyons."

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The wife? (2, Funny)

sjrstory (839289) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512506)

I'm thinking it was the wife who came forward and took responsibility for this crime. She probably had access to the Safeway Club Card, and most likely would not want to see her husband wrongfully convicted. I find it kind of sketchy that the prosecutor would not say who it is!

Re:The wife? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512517)

Or perhaps it turned out to be one of the kids...teenagers do strange things.
If the kid us underage, that would explain why they kept the identity a secret.

Re:The wife? (1)

jdbear (607709) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512521)

It was probably one of the kids. They tend to do things like that, and are not always charged if no harm was done.

jdbear

Re:The wife? (1)

sjrstory (839289) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512539)

Yeah, that makes more sense. Guess i'm sleepy this morning. :/

Re:The wife? (5, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512552)

It could have been anyone. You don't need your card to buy something under your name. Haven't you ever bought groceries before?

You just go through the line and they say "do you have a Safeway Club Card?".

You say, "I don't have it with me".

The cashier will say "What's your last name and four digits of your telephone number?".

Give them a last name and a telephone number. Voila. In other words, you could get all of the information necessary to frame the other person on the basis of a club card purchase, by looking in a telephone book. Any half assed lawyer would know that and have the trial and charges dismissed in a heartbeat.

Re:The wife? (1)

PhoenixFlare (319467) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512647)

It could have been anyone. You don't need your card to buy something under your name. Haven't you ever bought groceries before?

I guess it's different at Safeway, but at the store i'm using for the moment, I have to provide a driver's license if I forget my card and still want to use my account.

Glad i've seen this story now, at any rate. Going to be moving soon, and I sure won't be using Safeway wherever I end up.

Re:The wife? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512782)

To make it easier, you can type your Telephone number on the Credit Card Panel. You Don't even have to tell them anything.

His kid... (or some other child) (2, Insightful)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512562)

Depending on the circumstances the prosecutor might be loath to prosecute the child.

His kid would have access to his Safeway card. (Another kid might have access to his phone number, which will work just as well.)

The confessor is not being identified. (Also suggesting a child.)

Re:His kid... (or some other child) (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512629)

well.. all the firestarting materials belonged to the family, according to the article anyways. so there was NO dispute about that they had bought the items in the first place. the firestarter had used materials that were there, it's not that uncomman I'd believe that a firestarter goes through someones garage and then finds some flammables and sets them on.

so really.. what's the friggin deal with the card? it doesn't really prove anything since it was already known that the items belonged to the household.

Re:His kid... (or some other child) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512670)

You obviously have no idea about how to solve crimes. If you'd ever read a detective story you'd know that you find a number of clues scattered throughout the investigation and then you have to make up a story that could possibly be true and which includes ALL the clues in some significant but unlikely manner. Then the suspect instead of saying "I have nothing further to say until I've talked to my lawyer" breaks down and confesses despite generally being an intelligent and educated person. This guy didn't confess after they'd made up the story, that was what tipped them off that something was wrong, but that doesn't mean you can just ignore a CLUE like the store card - that's probably the key gimmick to the whole plot.

Re:His kid... (or some other child) (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512744)

so really.. what's the friggin deal with the card?


The deal is that the accused denied to have ever bought those firecrackers, and that the card records show that the purchase was booked on the card. And because the purchase was just a few weeks ago, the accused could probably not have forgotten that he actually bought the crackers, which made him suspicious.

Of course his wife could have bought the firecrackers with the family card, and I don't know what the buying age is for children there. But most of the clues point to an inside job: napkins from the household, firelighter from the household...

Still thinking? (5, Insightful)

fembots (753724) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512507)

No decision has been made whether that person will be charged

Are you kidding me? The wrongfully-accused was charged almost immediately, and now this guy fronted up and they're thinking about it?

Re:Still thinking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512523)

It doesn't make a good a landmark case if its not him

Re:Still thinking? (5, Insightful)

k98sven (324383) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512545)

Are you kidding me? The wrongfully-accused was charged almost immediately, and now this guy fronted up and they're thinking about it?

To engage in pure speculation: A possible situation could be that the fire was started by one of his kids. They would've had access to his card (and typically, kids don't have much cash either). The man's wife allegedly first spotted the fire, which makes me doubt it'd be her.

This would explain both why the procecutor has not decided if they should be charged, and also why they're not providing any identification. Hanging a presumably already troubled kid out to dry in the media wouldn't be very constructive.

Re:Still thinking? (2, Informative)

Johnny Fusion (658094) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512673)

To engage in pure speculation: A possible situation could be that the fire was started by one of his kids. They would've had access to his card

For Safeway, you don't even need the card -- just the phone number the card is associated with. I lost my card ages ago, but just put in the phone number I had when I got the card, and I get my discounts and my purchases tracked. It works all over the U.S. as I have done this in many states.

Re:Still thinking? (2, Informative)

Skapare (16644) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512792)

Most stores will let you provide the phone number in lieu of the actual card. Security is not generally much of a concern, as each usage only benefits the card owner ... it doesn't cost them anything (except when the data is misinterpreted by law enforcement, as was in this case, or other parties, such as your health or life insurance provider who thinks you are buying ... and eating ... too much cholesterol laden, heart artery clogging, foods).

I've never applied for, nor received, any of these cards. I do, however, have a few, obtained from relatives and friends. In other cases I've used their phone numbers, as well as phone numbers of complete strangers. If the phone number I pick out of the blue doesn't have a card (I've gotten about 50/50 on this), the clerk usually lets me use theirs when I act like I'm upset that their computer has lost the data.

FYI, I read the conditions and terms on the application for one of these cards, once. They made it clear they would never sell your name or data for any marketing purposes. But what about others ... like health insurance companies (who might want to know your eating habits)?

Re:Still thinking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512639)

Are you kidding me? The wrongfully-accused was charged almost immediately, and now this guy fronted up and they're thinking about it?

In the war against terorism we can't afford formalities like "charging" people. The constitution is not a suicide pact. The arsonist may have been outside the country at some point in the last 50 years or possibly has a pen-pal abroad. Might even use Instant Messaging to communicate with contacts abroad. Or web sites like Slashdot. Or he might even have avoided all forms of contact with potential foreign agents, to avoid suspicion. With evidence like this against him, charging would just be endangering the freedoms of us all.

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no big deal (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512512)

elect fascists, get fascism. In other news grass is still green.

Your Rights Online?? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512518)

Why is this story posted on Slashdot? Slow news day, huh??

Re:Your Rights Online?? (3, Insightful)

sjrstory (839289) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512527)

Your Rights Online... The big thing here is a Supermarket loyalty card was used against the customer.

Re:Your Rights Online?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512594)

Supermarket loyalty

bahaha! like anyone has loyalty to a supermarket.

Re:Your Rights Online?? (2, Interesting)

timholman (71886) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512618)

Your Rights Online... The big thing here is a Supermarket loyalty card was used against the customer.

Which is why I used a fake name and address when I signed up for my loyalty cards.

I've never seen any supermarket employee ask for ID when you fill out a loyalty card application. If anything, the employees are completely indifferent about letting customers borrow each others' cards, and will even provide spare cards of their own for customer who forget theirs.

Just use a fake name and address that are not obviously bogus, get the price discount, and stop worrying.

Re:Your Rights Online?? (2, Insightful)

sjrstory (839289) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512628)

I pay for everything with my VISA, i'm sure they would be able to take the ID number from the loyalty card and match it with my credit card. (All my loyalty cards have a unique ID and are scanned in at the time of the purchase).

Re:Your Rights Online?? (4, Informative)

ManxStef (469602) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512698)

Heh, hit the nail on the head with that one ;) It seems a lot of people here don't realise this - you only need to charge a credit card against it once and the link is made.

Re:Your Rights Online?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512710)

It won't help you unless you always pay in cash since the computer system is set up to tie together debit or credit card info with the store card so they will know perfectly well that John Smith alwyas uses a loyalty card in the name of Donald Duck.

Re:Your Rights Online?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512625)

Your Rights Online... The big thing here is a Supermarket loyalty card was used against the customer.

I don't find that aspect of it particularly troubling. They might as well have used a receipt for the purchase. If you pay with a credit card, the store will generally keep a copy of the recipt with your signature on it.

If you had a case where the cops (or anyone else) trawled through the store's database looking to round up people who had bought a particular item, that would be a problem.

But this is completely different. Given that it was arson, he was the obvious suspect. It is totally reasonable for the cops to ask for a warrant to examine his purchases. This could certainly include going through his household trash (for wrappers and receipts), credit card history, or store purchase history.

That said.. although he was a reasonable suspect, they should not have brought charges against him, since the actual evidence they dug up was fairly circumstantial.

The problem here is not infringement of privacy... it is that the DA was eager to go to trial without sufficiently incriminating evidence. It's a very good thing that the confession came when it did. He may have been found innocent anyway, but you never know.

Re:Your Rights Online?? (2, Insightful)

metricmusic (766303) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512561)

A card used to rack up shopping points was used against the owner of the card.

you get some measly shopping vouchers or gifts not worth their value

and the shop gets to target its market better

while they log exactly what you buy

which leads to this guy in this case, being screwed by this opt-in gathered infomation.

Makes pulling out those loyalty cards out of your wallet so encouraging huh?

How did they get the safeway info?? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512524)

How did police get the record of his Safeway purchases??? Can I go to my local safeway and see my personal record of purchases? What is Safeways Privacy policy... OH NEVERMIND... forgot we live in post 9/11 america.

Re:How did they get the safeway info?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512541)

It could have been anyone with access to the card, and that could be a lot of people if shopping is shared between family members - the card would be left out somewhere accessible for the next person to go shopping to use. Obviously all family members are an option, but any guests they've had around are as well.

Presumably that purchase wasn't made with a credit card, because then Safeway could also have told the police the card number used which would have been a surefire way to see if it was the father that had bought the firelighters or not. Or maybe information like that would have made the police's job more involved, and they like having the evidence that points towards someone and to ignore all evidence against.

Re:How did they get the safeway info?? (1)

RonnyJ (651856) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512671)

In the UK, we have something called the 'Data Protection Act', and part of this means that you have the right to obtain the personal information that a company holds on you (although a fee may be asked for, to cover administration costs).

I believe that there are some restrictions on what you're able to access, though I'm not entirely sure on what these are. There's a lot more to the act though, and anybody interested can look here [informatio...ner.gov.uk]

Re:How did they get the safeway info?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512702)

Sure we do. But that doesn't stop Mr Plod from also being abole to access it and to jump to whatever conclusions he wants to. Now lets go on to the ID cards that our wonderful Government wants to introduce and see what potential for abuse and misuse there is there. And then there's the current HOme Secretary's bill which will allow the HOme Office to imprison anyone they please in their homes without evidence, without proof, without any recourse to appeal just because someone says that you are a potential terrorist. I have nothing particular that I'm ashamed of but I'm sure as heck terrified by the headlong rush towards highly abusive and intrusive State control of every aspect of our lives.

Re:How did they get the safeway info?? (1)

KontinMonet (737319) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512804)

And the current Home Secretary (Charles Clarke) who hinted that we should take action against "potential terrorists". Well, anybody who breathes (just about) is a 'potential' terrorist. And my wife and friends wonder why I look over my shoulder and mumble "I gotta get out of here..."

Re:How did they get the safeway info?? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512826)

I work for a large credit card company in the US, and when this law was passed in the UK they came around and made us promise not to mishandle any UK customers account info. All the accounts are in one big database that's accessible at will by any terminal at any company location in the world, by a qualifying employee of course, but it at least could be anyone at the call center level (India?). This could easily be taken advantage of by someone who wanted to spy on foreigners by tracking their spending habits as well as their whereabouts, during or after the fact.

Happy ending? (5, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512531)

His house was set on fire.
He was charged with and arrested for arson.

What part of this story is "happy"?

The only thing that stood between him and serious prison time (not to mention probably losing all of his friends, family and destroying his career and reputation) was that the criminal who was responsible came forward. Do you know how rare that is? His "fortune" here was like falling off a 110 story building and having a huge gust of wind on a still day scoop you to safety at the very last second.

Let's not even entertain the possibility that someone could have died in the fire. If that were the case, I bet nobody would have stepped forward and this guy would have taken the fall - all so Safeway could target their demographics better. More, he probably would have been sentenced to life in prison at the least and everyone would be cheering for his execution. Because, of course, he's guilty if he has been convited, so he should fry!

This was a stomach-churning close-call.

Re:Happy ending? (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512587)


His house was set on fire.
He was charged with and arrested for arson.

What part of this story is "happy"?

He's not in prison?

Close call? (5, Insightful)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512591)

I agree, there's not much happy about it.

This was a stomach-churning close-call.

I guess I have more faith in the system.

They'd have to convince a jury that this "noble, hard working volunteer firefighter who loves his adoring family very much and just, out of the kindness of his own heart, adopted a child into his home and family", started a fire to kill them all.

And apparently they planned on doing it with nothing but circumstantial evidence which would vanish once a trial started. Any defense lawyer worth a damn is going to have a Safeway employee on the stand explaining several different ways someone could use his Safeway Club Card #.

Re:Happy ending? (4, Insightful)

k98sven (324383) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512598)

The only thing that stood between him and serious prison time (not to mention probably losing all of his friends, family and destroying his career and reputation) was that the criminal who was responsible came forward.

Uh, that and an actual trial and conviction, then. Yes.

You're assuming here that the guy would have been found guilty. Which you would think is a big assumption, given that he in fact was innocent.

Innocent people are put trial every day. It's not a pleasant thing, but it's the only way the system can work, unless we somehow attain police and procecutors who never make mistakes.

But it's not just the procecutors. Courts make mistakes too, which is why you have the right to appeal. Depite all that, innocent people sometimes do get convicted. And that's the real tragedy, although it seems it more often has to do with incompetent defense lawyers (It'd be nice if the state provided people who could stay awake [sanluisobispo.com] ).

But as I said, this was nowhere near a close call.

Re:Happy ending? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512675)

innocent people also sometines get put to death.

death is a perfect punishment by an imperfect system.

Re:Happy ending? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512686)

Which you would think is a big assumption, given that he in fact was innocent.

Huh? I'm all for treating him as innocent as he hasn't been found guilty of anything but just saying that "he in fact was innocent" seems to be a big leap here. Using that logic we can say that everybody in the while world, including him, is innocent as nobody has been prosecuted.

Someone has 'confessed', they haven't been charged with anything and if they ever are then they might be found not guilty. This guy might get charged again and might go on to face trial. We don't know who did it.

Re:Happy ending? (5, Informative)

thomasa (17495) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512817)

Sorry, just being charged can ruin your reputation.

What issue? (3, Interesting)

bonch (38532) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512533)

I can't help thinking Michael posted this so that we could get up in arms, but that's how the system (and life in general) works. It's not always flawless and perfect, and legal investigations can sometimes lead to other areas that turn out to be incorrect. It's likely the authorities would have figured it out eventually. Not that I don't feel for the guy, getting wrongly arrested. But if it happened to me, and it was because of the kind of "evidence" described here, I wouldn't feel wronged in any way. I would understand that it was a valid mistake.

Re:What issue? (2, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512543)

You wouldn't feel wronged that a private company's database of every purchse you've made with them (which is used to help them decide which customers are good and which are bad - so they don't focus on the cheapskates who only show up for discount products) was handed over to the police and then some random purchase made on your card was used against you to not only make you a suspect, but CHARGE you?

Remember, he was CHARGED. You would hope the police would have figured it out before CHARGING him.

Do you know what it takes to have a purchase show up on your database with Safeway? All it takes is someone coming into the store and telling the cashier what your name is and your phone number (often just the last four digits).

If I wanted to burn your house down, but make sure you got the blame for it, I could just go into safeway and give them YOUR name and YOUR phone number, buy the equipment, set fire to your house and YOU would hang for it.

Re:What issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512651)

(which is used to help them decide which customers are good and which are bad - so they don't focus on the cheapskates who only show up for discount products)

Now that idea is just bizarre.

If they really don't want people to buy discount products, why do they have the discounts in the first place?

The actual (main) reasons that they record purchases are to look into product correlations and to try to get you to switch brands. I.e., the company that owns Brand X will pay the supermarket to give coupons to customers who buy the competing Brand Y.

Re:What issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512719)

If they really don't want people to buy discount products, why do they have the discounts in the first place?

To get you into the shop and then go on to buy non-discounted products. Maybe he should have said loss-leaders but the idea is pretty obvious.

If you only buy items they sell at a loss or don't buy enough more expensive items to make up for it then they don't want you. Why would they?

Re:What issue? (1)

Yr0 (224662) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512548)

HEY!

Fuck you.

thanks.

Yr0

Re:What issue? (4, Insightful)

dago (25724) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512563)

... also if you were sentenced to death for a crime you didn't commit ?

Re:What issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512750)

... also if you were sentenced to death for a crime you didn't commit ?

If you can present your side so that it'd look like an evil corporation "set you up" then Michael "Censorwhore" Sims will certainly post your story to the front page of Slashtard, complete with mindless editorializing.

Re:What issue? (1)

lomov (843821) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512800)

This is why death penalty should be abolished.

Thank you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512567)

...for convincing me to browse at +3 with your "insightful" post.

Re:What issue? (1)

HeghmoH (13204) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512609)

For me, this is just more reasons why invasions of privacy are a bad thing. If there is no data, then it can't be misinterpreted.

Re:What issue? (1)

Scratch-O-Matic (245992) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512681)

I'd hardly call a supermarket club card an "invasion of privacy." Need I say that the program is voluntary?

That said, I am sick to death of all the stores that ask for your phone number when you buy something. Once an auto parts store (at the dealer, no less) let me walk out without buying the part I needed because I refused to give them my name, address, and phone number. Several years ago I invented a number that I give in all such cases. I've even gone into stores where I wasn't sure I'd been before, and when I gave them the number they typed it in and said, "John?" -- indicating I'd given it to them before.

Re:What issue? (2, Insightful)

Zareste (761710) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512624)

I would understand that it was a valid mistake.

Says someone who wasn't imprisoned for life.

Yeah let's just take our Prozac tell ourselves everything is good this way. Life in general is meant to be spent in a cell; it's just the way of things.

Those police, unlike all the other police in history and every court case known to man and without any precedent, would have proven he's innocent, instead of adding him to the overflowing prisons full of everyone else who was in a similar situation.

Re:What issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512664)

Says someone who wasn't imprisoned for life.

I betting you haven't been imprisoned for life either. Why should we listen to you?

Re:What issue? (1)

shosuro (854416) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512630)

I was going to comment about how it wasn't actually a valid mistake. Then it hit me. You apparently really believe that this sort of thing is okay. That this sort of abuse of power is acceptable to you. As messed up as the situation was/is, I think your reaction to it, actually bothers me more.

Re:What issue? (1)

eraserewind (446891) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512687)

Where is the abuse of power?

Re:What issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512676)

I can't help thinking Michael posted this so that we could get up in arms

Happens all the time. And the people here fall for it over and over and over.
Techie version of Pavlov's dog: "Your rights being violated!!!" "Big business wins again!!!" "Patents!!!"
OMG!!! click click, post post, generate profit for /.
This place is just another business taking advantage of the weakness of its audience.

Re:What issue? (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512835)

That's kinda obvious.

If the system was perfect then we could do away with trials, lawyers and judges and just shoot the criminals.

I suspect this is the Children... (2, Insightful)

aepervius (535155) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512536)

Which explain why there was at yet no charge retained against the new suspect. Nevertheless to those usually saying "if you have nothing to hide you do not need privacy" well this is one example of WHY we want privacy. Instead of searching for hard proof, the police seems to have only concentrated on circumstancial evidence (supermarket sale, and dog go right to the door).

Re:I suspect this is the Children... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512575)

The dog going to the door was obvious, I mean, the firelighter was pushed through the door!

They should have turned the dog around!

But yes, the evidence would probably have been dismissed at a trial as unreliable, especially since it isn't like the store has any form of security on purchases. Anyway, he is a firefighter, I'm sure he knows a good way to set light to a house - also people committing arson don't usually put it out efficiently as soon as attention is drawn to it.

Re:I suspect this is the Children... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512586)

well.. would 'privacy' really have helped all that much?

the dog pointed the house as the place where the firestarter went, too.

guesswork policework is shit, if you need privacy to cover your ass from polices who guess who did it and then make up the evidence.. then you already need a change of scene, no amount of privacy would help.

Re:I suspect this is the Children... (1)

lars_stefan_axelsson (236283) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512672)

well.. would 'privacy' really have helped all that much? the dog pointed the house as the place where the firestarter went, too.

Well, I'm hoping at least that had that been all the police had to go on then they wouldn't have actually charged someone. There were after all several possible suspects in the building and since one of them could be (erroneously) found out to have lied only through the Safeway card, without the Safeway card, who would they have charged? The whole family? A random member? Surely not. He was nailed because his name was on the card.

In the court of public opinion there is of course a substantial difference between 'The cops don't have any real idea as to who set the house on fire' and 'The cops have charged a suspect and the case is going to trial.' No smoke without fire and all that (kind of apt in this particular case).

He's lucky (1)

despe666 (802244) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512572)

He's lucky they didn't charge him under the Patriot Act for terrorism... Because then even if the real culprit came forward, they would both have been imprisoned without a trial for suspected terrorism!

Hey if it can happen for pointing a laser in the sky it can happen to anyone!

Re:He's lucky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512748)

Except the laser guy isn't being imprisoned without a trial, yo. He's out on bail awaiting trial for Patriot Act-related charges.

The culprit has more to worry about. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512580)

I think the person responsible for it has more to worry aboutif they said "he or she set the fire" - such as checking inside their pants.

A recent story from the UK (5, Informative)

pg133 (307365) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512588)

Magistrate fined for keeping lost Rolex [telegraph.co.uk]

A magistrate who found a £3,250 Rolex watch in a supermarket and gave it to his wife as a 60th birthday present was fined £600 after being found guilty of theft.

Rowlett, a building surveyor, was caught almost two years later after taking the watch for repair at a jewellers near his home in Poole.

It was identified from its serial number as having been lost or stolen.

Inquiries with Tesco, through its Club Card loyalty scheme records, and receipts of purchases showed Rowlett had been in the shop within two hours of Mrs Scott

Re:A recent story from the UK (1)

bani (467531) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512685)

what's mind boggling is this magistrate hasn't been forcefully evicted from his position, merely "suspended".

Re:A recent story from the UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512810)

You thinks that mind boddling? Why didn't the magistrate report the watch he found to the front desk at safeway? A Rolex is not something you shrug your shoulders at, the owener would have come to claim it.

On a side note, his wife must be furious.

Card Sharing @ Safeway (2, Interesting)

automatikzen (781732) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512605)

You can just give them a phone number to get the discount, so use your friends/bosses/relatives. (At least here, in N.Cali, you can. I do it all the time.) For extra fun, use your bosses number while buying fifty bucks worth of saran wrap and baby oil at three in the morning. I know there was a guy who had a project going to get a bunch of people to use his card. I believe it was linked on /., actually. Given that you can do all of the above (without whoever owns the card knowing about it), whoever was involved in the investigation ought to get a swift kick in the ass and a lifetime ban from any position of authority.

Wouldn't be any police left. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512689)

If all without responsibility & smarts were booted.

Re:Card Sharing @ Safeway (1)

thomasa (17495) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512814)

I wouldn't use baby oil. I would use canola oil.

This Has Been Well Documented (2, Interesting)

femto (459605) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512608)

Five years ago, the Australian Government mistakenly released a report [efa.org.au] , which covered this exact scenario. Here is the relevant quote, which was supposed to never be seen by the public:
6.3.4 The relationship of these agencies with AUSTRAC may well prove crucial once encryption becomes more pervasive. Major subjects of investigation, whether they be narcotics suppliers or distributors, pornography distributors, money-launderers or terrorists, rely and will continue to rely on the banking system to provide value to their transactions. The 'money trail', provided by credit and smart-cards, not to ignore
fly-buys, may well provide a continuously available hand-rail in a darkening investigative world.

The emphasis is mine.

Fly-buys is a large loyalty scheme in Australia. AUSTRAC are the spooks responsible for tracing money as it flows through the economy.

Basically, the government is well aware of the abilty of loyalty schemes to trace otherwise untraceable cash transactions, and they would rather the public didn't know about it (as proven by the bungled attempt at censorship).

Well at least.... (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512611)

.... with all the money he saved he could afford a really good lawyer. I know 1 year of club card discounts could get me a decent lawyer for a couple of minutes.

Re:Well at least.... (1)

PSXer (854386) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512623)

Discount? Don't you mean the regular price that was there before they jacked up the price for those who choose not to use the store's retnal scanners? I think I'm going to cry now.

Any non cash payment is similar (1)

iamnotacrook (816556) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512620)

For example if you pay with a credit card, exactly the same information is stored and can be retrieved, with a warrant. Nothing to do with safeways cards.

Ob Privacy reminder (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512621)

From the CASPIAN FAQ [nocards.org] :

Q. Can club card records be seized by law enforcement agencies?

Absolutely. In fact, law enforcement has already been digging around in people's food purchase files -- which is part of why these records scare me. I personally don't feel like it is a supermarket's place to get involved in catching criminals, and even if I did, I couldn't support the collection of this sort of detailed, intimate information on tens of millions of Americans on the off chance one or two of them might have committed a crime.

Constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure have (somewhat and so far) succeeded in keeping the government from digging around in the affairs of innocent citizens. But when private companies (like supermarkets) do the digging for them, law enforcement doesn't have to worry about that pesky Constitution. Let the private sector do the privacy violation and all you need is a search warrant to access what you wouldn't have been authorized to collect yourself.

Bear in mind, too, that someday the "crime catching" tables may be turned on you. Say down the road you get involved in a lawsuit and the opposition subpoenas your shopping record. Or an ex-spouse uses your file to show that you're not a fit parent. (After all, what fit parent buys condoms? Or beer? Or cholesterol-laden mocha fudge ripple ice cream?) Once information about your shopping habits is stored somewhere it will hang like ripe fruit; anyone who can get a warrant or a subpoena will have a wealth of information that can be distorted to make you look bad.

The only way to prevent these abuses of your shopping information is to make sure it is never collected in the first place.

Re:Ob Privacy reminder (1)

KontinMonet (737319) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512757)

Trouble with that approach is that the records may also prove you innocent. And what about CCTV records or phone records or credit card transactions? All (or nearly all) are owned and tracked by private companies. Yet, in a lot of cases, they have been core to fingering serious criminals.

I take the 'overwhelmed by data' approach. Here in the UK, you cannot avoid being seen in high quality colour in just about any built-up area or mall. We are the most watched country in the world. Yet crime has not diminished significantly.

On the other hand, how are you going to avoid the odd mistake when law enforcement puts 2 + 2 together to make 22? For the paranoid, keep those records to an absolute minimum, I suppose. But also get yourself top notch legal insurance (you can get this with any life insurance, mortgage etc.) up to however many millions make you feel comfortable.

Overall though, the chances of this sort of thing happening are pretty low, otherwise it would not be news.

Use a fake name (1)

Misanthropy (31291) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512632)

I always like to use the cards because to get all the good deals in the supermarket you need one. I just fill it out with a fake name.

Though I suppose if somebody was looking for me they could just cross reference the card use with the security footage. Damn! Guess I need a new plan of action.

Re:Use a fake name (1)

Geraden (15689) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512660)

All good, but security tapes aren't normally kept for that long, really.

Re:Use a fake name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512713)

But they only have to match the card using your
latest purchase, then they get your whole history.
If you go the fake name route, you should get
new cards, with different names, on a regular basis.

Re:Use a fake name (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512721)

They only need to have the tape back to the last time you used the card.

Point the finger at the police, not at Safeway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512633)

Seems to me like this really isn't an issue about the abuse of the Club Card. It's an issue about the police being able to arrest and charge somebody on very dodgy evidence. In another case, the use of purchase information could have been used to convict a guilty person who would otherwise have gotten away. If the rules regarding how easy it was for somebody to be charged on something like a purchase record alone were a little more sane, then I'm not sure there'd be any real problem.

Anonymous card (2, Informative)

reflx (760179) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512640)

A couple of months ago i visited the US for a few weeks. At a Safeway store i asked for a club card and got one without filling in any form. She didn't even ask, perhaps because she knew i was a foreigner. In my home country all my discount cards are anonymous. I just refuse to give my personal data. Works all the time.

So why use real info? (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512650)

If all you want is the occasional discount at the register, use made up info. No chain has yet refused to enroll Mr A T Hun,Brad Majors,Bat Guano, or Jesus H Christ.

Re:So why use real info? (1)

Colonel Cholling (715787) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512802)

You can't fool us with your "A. T. Hun." That wasn't a Hunalyzer, it was an Alexander-the-Greatalyzer!

Same thing with DNA tests (2, Interesting)

cronostitan (573676) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512663)

These absolutely conlusive datas, like digital data (used in this case) or genetic data (very similar because it is unique) bear a great danger. Since this data seems to be so unmistakable people think that the hint itself (pointing to a guilty or innocent person) is to be taken for granted too.

I could get a few hairs from someone, murder his wife, spread his hairs all over the place and the police would most probably think it was him (he was in his bed sleeping at home with nobody to witness)

BUT ITS just a CLUE. If i had worn a neoprene suit no genetic data would have dropped by me. The police would think that person is guilty. A good police investigator would know its only a hint and not enough to convict someone. Unfortunately the public is thinking that this data is confirmed.

Re:Same thing with DNA tests (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512708)

If i had worn a neoprene suit no genetic data would have dropped by me.

It would kindof make you stand out in a crowd though.

Re:Same thing with DNA tests (1)

despe666 (802244) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512718)

Eh! That's what 3 different flavors of CSI do to people.

Isn't it how it works? They find a hair or a fiber, they almost instantly get the source of the evidence (DNA tests take 30 seconds). Then the CSI makes up a story and the bad guy inevitably confesses to everything against is lawyer's advice.

If a murder case takes more than half a day to solve, then it won't be solved until the killer strikes again, but then the detective will take it personally because he will have spoken to the killer in the course of his first investigation and the killer inform the detective that he's the next target.

Of course the cities of Las Vegas, Miami or NYC only have 2 murders per week, and they occur on the same night every week (except when there is a special like a football game or something, then the killers wait another week out of respect for the crime lab geeks. And killers take 6 months vacations during summer.

Now that I have figured out the pattern, it's only a question of time before we are completely rid of crime!

Re:Same thing with DNA tests (1)

KontinMonet (737319) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512779)

...few hairs from someone, murder his wife, spread his hairs all over the place...

My guess is that they're probably on his wife anyway. You'd need something more conclusive like fingerprints I suspect.

If only there was something you could do.... (1)

Atrax (249401) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512668)

... about privacy issues [aclu.org]

Oh, wait! There IS [aclu.org]

Protect your privacy (1)

Anonymous Cowherd X (850136) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512678)

This is why it's a good idea to:
  • use aliases for loyalty cards (a different one for each card)
  • swap loyalty cards with your friends on a regular basis
  • always pay cash

That's what my friends (greetings to fellow Cowherd members) and I do. Supermarkets are not authorized to verify the authenticity of the personal information you fill in when applying for their loyalty cards, so they have no right to demand that you reveal your true identity to them even if they suspect it's bogus.

How? I need to show ID when I sign up.. (1)

LordJezo (596587) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512682)

For my Shop Rite card here in NJ they ask to see a drivers license or some form of ID. Same with a couple of the other ones I signed up for.

Re:How? I need to show ID when I sign up.. (1)

Anonymous Cowherd X (850136) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512796)

For my Shop Rite card here in NJ they ask to see a drivers license or some form of ID. Same with a couple of the other ones I signed up for.

They have a right as well as a duty to ask for some official form of ID only when you're buying alcohol or firearms. When they ask you for some form of ID at some supermarket just ask them politely to tell you which law authorizes them to demand such personal information and then just smile and that will be the end of that in most cases. You do not want to handle such situations as if you were some kind of terrorist, just be polite and friendly, yet decisive.

One of the alternatives is to get a fake library or some other type of card and present that card pretending that it was the first card you could find (as if you misplaced your driver's license). People who check those IDs don't even care what's on the ID as long as the info is consistent. They don't even know why they are doing what they're doing, so you can just make some authentic-looking self-made club card. Sunday Book Club, Garden Club, whatever, as long as it's not Slashdot Club, they'll call the cops on you in that case. You don't have to put a photo on the card if you don't want to, just make sure the card is laminated, that will make it appear authentic enough for people not to bother asking for some other type of ID. Oh and avoid being too creative with the card design, people tend to get interested in joining clubs with pretty club membership cards. You wouldn't believe how many sales clerks have asked me about joining a certain Garden Art Club after seeing my overly artistic club card!

Re:Protect your privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512695)

That's what my friends (greetings to fellow Cowherd members) and I do. Supermarkets are not authorized to verify the authenticity of the personal information you fill in when applying for their loyalty cards, so they have no right to demand that you reveal your true identity to them even if they suspect it's bogus.

That's right, they better just smile and take my cash or I'll be buying that kerosine from someone else or my name is not *reading from loyalty card* Howie Burns!

Remember this... (4, Insightful)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512722)

If you should ever find yourself on a jury. Chances are, had this gone to trial, he would've been convicted, and be in jail right now.

All the evidence is circumstantial and really pretty flimsy. The dog circling to the front door? Well of course he's going to detect that the family was in their own yard. While from movies we get these impressions of "superdogs" that do police work, in reality, such dogs are quite prone to make mistakes.

So his club card (not, apparently, his credit card-examine what's NOT said. The credit card would've been far stronger evidence. Had he used that, they would've worried about getting evidence from that and not even been concerned with the club card.) was used to make the purchases. So what? I signed up for my club card with bogus information. Sometimes, I forget the card, and I have no idea what BS phone number I put down, so I use my boss's phone #. He must have one of those cards, it always works. But I've certainly never been asked to verify my identity when doing so.

The real moral of this story-cops and prosecutors are often overzealous. When you are on a jury, do not ask yourself "Does it look like this guy did it?" Ask yourself instead "Has it been proven to me, beyond a reasonable doubt, that this person did it? Would I stake x years of my life on the fact that this guy did it?" Because you are staking years of someone's life on your decision. If you cannot say "I am sure"-even if you can say "I'm almost sure"-the vote is not guilty. Even if the other 11 say otherwise. Stick it out and hang the jury if you have to, but do NOT condemn a person guilty unless you are ABSOLUTELY sure. People are exonerated every day because some jury thought "probably did it" equated to "for-sure did it."

Ils sont fou ces américains! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11512746)

Ils sont fou ces américains!

Re:Ils sont fou ces américains! (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512822)

Just the majority, not all of them. Rainbow is big on tying all their discounts to loyalty cards where I am. It could have been the extra variety of a larger Cub store, but I would like to think when a Cub (which uses regular coupon books and newpaper coupons) dropped down about four blocks from our neighborhood Rainbow, the lack of loyalty cards was a factor in the prolonged and painful dead of that Rainbow over about nine months.

How hard is it to find the same brand. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512773)

I mean it is winter, people do have fireplaces, Stores whan to ship what sells. There is a good chance the different stores will have the same brand of fires starters. Or it could have been bought from the same store. Heck really invade peoples privacy and check everyones to see if they got the fire starters to and convict them all.

Just Say You Forgot It (1)

dprovine (140134) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512776)

Whenever they ask for one of these cards, I just
look blankly and say "My wife has one, but I,
uh...". The cashier pulls out a blank one from
her apron, runs it past the machine, and I get the
full club member discount. This has never failed.

Re:Just Say You Forgot It (1)

Slaveway (562761) | more than 9 years ago | (#11512825)

At Safeway we are not allowed to do this. We have been told we could be written up if we are caught doing this for a customer.
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