Get ready for some big headlines about crackdowns on Visa credit card fraud. (But don't be fooled by them.)

In a keynote speech to hundreds of credit card fraud investigators last week, FBI Special Agent John P. O'Connor bragged about the agency's success with "fast-tracking" -- indicting groups of small-time con artists whose individual crimes would otherwise be ignored by the media.

He said that bunching the bad guys together yields large dollar figures that attract widespread publicity on detecting fraud. But, he confided to his audience from the International Association of Credit Card Investigators, there's often less than meets the eye in such announcements.

Mr. O'Connor said the agency's major fast-track success occurred in Florida, resulting in a USA Today headline: "Twenty-three people charged in $1.3 million bank fraud."

In fact, the 23 indictments were unrelated. Confessions helped the FBI land two indictments for embezzlements of $600,000 and $400,000. The agency then scraped together 21 small-time frauds to jack up the total loss by $300,000.

He urged bank investigators to watch for the results of forthcoming fast-tracking investigations with Visa on personal bankruptcy fraud.

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