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Originally published July 26, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 26, 2007 at 2:04 AM

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Man orders 2 credit cards, receives 2,000

What's in your wallet? If it were up to Exxon Mobil, it might be more than 2,000 gas credit cards. Manhattan accountant Frank Van Buren...

New York Daily News

NEW YORK — What's in your wallet?

If it were up to Exxon Mobil, it might be more than 2,000 gas credit cards.

Manhattan accountant Frank Van Buren, who has carried an Exxon gas card for his business for 17 years, called customer service recently to say his card was near its expiration date. He requested two new ones.

He got them — followed three weeks later by a box from Texas. Inside were 1,000 credit cards, all with his name and account number.

He called customer service to complain and was told to destroy the cards.

"Believe me, we shredded them," Van Buren said, adding that the process took about three hours. "Anybody could have taken those cards; they were in front of my door."

He thought that was that. Until another box arrived this week.

"How could you send me 2,000 cards by mistake?" Van Buren said he asked customer service after the second plastic payload arrived.

When he was again told that it was a mistake and that he should destroy these, too, he balked and said he'd rather return them.

"They refused to take them back," he said.

"We don't know what happened," Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Paula Chen said in an interview, adding that the company would review the matter with the card's issuer, Citibank, which handles its accounts.

"We certainly apologize to him for any inconvenience," a Citibank representative said, adding that the company regretted "the inconvenience."

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But as Van Buren sees it, "It's so stupid. These big companies with all their profits can send some tiny, miniature firm like mine all these cards and then just say, 'tough luck.' "

Even worse, said Bankrate.com senior financial analyst Greg McBride, is that none of the cards had activation stickers, which help prevent identity theft.

"One of the main ways identity thieves work is by stealing credit cards right out of your mailbox," added Zulfikar Ramzan, a security expert at software giant Symantec. "For all you know, there could be a third box that he didn't get."

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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