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Tough Arizona lawman targeted by credit card scam

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A controversial Arizona lawman, who styles himself "America's Toughest Sheriff" for his relentless pursuit of criminals, may have himself become a victim of credit card fraud, media reports showed on Tuesday.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told local CBS television news in Phoenix that his credit card information appeared to have been used to buy nearly $300 in groceries in Chicago - a city he said he had not visited in years.

A controversial figure for housing county detainees in a Spartan "Tent City" jail and for sweeps targeting illegal immigrants across metro Phoenix, Arpaio told local KPHO television that "skimmers" had used his Discover card last week to shop at a Jewel supermarket in Chicago.

"I'm sure I didn't make the purchase so it could've been done by, what do you call it, skimmers making copies or through the Internet, many different ways," Arpaio told KPHO. "I don't think I'm the only victim around. There's many, many more I presume."

A message left with Arpaio's office was not immediately returned on Tuesday, and it was unclear if any arrests had been made in connection with the scam.

Bank card fraud is on the rise worldwide. One international study published last year found than a quarter of consumers reported having been hit by scammers in the previous five years.

Arpaio, 80, told KPHO he had not been in Chicago since the 1950s, and that he canceled his card after the scam was reported by his bank.

If the people responsible for the fraud were struggling, Arpaio may not press charges, the station reported.

Arpaio was swept to a sixth term in office in November by backers of his hardline stance on crime and illegal immigration in the Phoenix area. He is also fighting lawsuits from the government and Hispanic drivers who accuse him of civil rights violations and racial profiling, which he denies.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor, editing by Cynthia Johnston, desking by G Crosse)

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