Credit Card Fraud! Are you prepared?
I really do not like to be chicken little shouting "the sky is falling" but I have too many friends and family who who have been touched with some type of credit card fraud recently and I thought I would share some ideas to help you be prepared in the event someone hijacks your credit card number.
Today, I received a call from MasterCard asking me if I had purchased $2,621.82 at the Apple store in Georgia.
Since I was sitting at my computer in Williams, Arizona when they called I was able to say "absolutely not." Evidently, someone was trying to purchase (probably a big deal mac laptop or two Ipads) with my card number at Apple. I only have 1 card and it was in my wallet so that meant someone had the nerve to present the card number and try to get away with the purchase. I was so grateful mastercard called before authorizing the transaction.
On Tuesday, my step daughter had $1,000 taken out of her debit account. Two other men where her husband works had the same experience this week. Her husband and the two other guys, all go to lunch together, use their individual credit cards to pay and all three of them had someone fraudulently use their cards this week. It looks like an individual at the restaurant where they frequent might have taken down numbers and went on a spending spree. It's an ugly mess for them as it is going to take about 8 to 10 days to get the money back in the account as it was actually taken out of the account with a purchase.
We were in Italy with friends and while we were there they were using the ATM machines to get the local currency. Evidently, someone recorded the transaction with a hidden camera and then started to use their card taking cash of over $25,000. The card they were using was tied to another account which had that much money in it. It took them over three months to get that corrected.
We had another alert call some some time back where we were called about a purchase at Harrods in London for $1,500.00. Again, we were protected by the call and the sale was declined. We do go to London and had used that card to pay for hotel bills. Even when you are paying with your own card, people who work where the credit cards are being used are often tempted to take the numbers and see what they can collect.
My wallet was stolen at an Open House one time in Colorado and we had to close a card that had reoccurring charges on it. Changing all the automatic pays we had lined up on the account was really not fun. We made a conscious plan to purchase online with only one card just in case something like that happened again. Now I am thinking that pay pal payment on the Internet, where you don't have to share the card information with the store might be a good way to go in the future.
It's waddling and it's quacking, it's a DUCK.
Get ready as it is only a matter of time till you might be touched.
If you are prepared for these unfortunate situations, you will be covered from the losses.
The stolen wallet from the Open House episode came down like this:
- The signs were there and I just didn't react fast enough. A family with 4 children walked in with everyone looking like they had just come from the store in new jogging outfits and shoes. I should have known immediately this was not a real family as they were all smiling at me with their arms to the side looking like toy soldiers. When I asked them to sign the guest book of course the name was "Smith" in an apartment near by. They said they had cash and could buy the right house if they found it. When I asked the parents what school they were looking for the kids the parents did not know the answer, the kids told me..... do you hear that duck starting to quack. At this point I knew they were not for real and really didn't know what to do. I was worried as the house had many Hummel figurines everywhere and when the mom and dad split up with the kids in different directions it took me awhile to get them all back together. I had been doing my work at the kitchen table and did not even think about my purse being on the chair. Obviously they knew what they were looking for and while I was herding them all back together, one of them got my wallet. I did not realize it till after I closed the open house and stopped at Home Depot to buy some garden things on my way home and found the wallet was gone.
- My husband immediately called all the cards and put a stop on them. A good idea to protect yourself is to have a folder with all your card numbers and the 800 numbers to call in just such a case. He called and they already had started spending. The Credit Card company could tell where they had been and how much they had spent.
- The 1st place the thieves went was to a gas station to see if the card was good. There was only a $1.00 charge so then then went off to take a ride! The group that had stolen my wallet from the Open House looked like a young family. Two twin girls in 8th grade, a 5 year old and possibly a 6 year old.
- The second stop was at a candy store where they purchased about $40.00
- Third they stopped at a Disney store and spent about $100.
- The fourth and final stop before the card was turned off was a video store where the cameras saw them have one card declined and then they went for the 2nd card.
- They then looked at the numbers in my wallet from my drivers licesnse and figured out the code for cash advances and took $2,500. Looking back they probably did have the cash to buy a house if they were doing this with regularity. The key thing to remember here is NOT to use any combinations of numbers found on your drivers license as a password. :) My husband had called to stop the card however, the bank stopped his card and not mine so they got away with the cash.
How did it end? Since we called immediately and stopped the spending spree we were not responsible for those charges. The bank knew they made the mistake on the debit card so the $2,500 was put back in our account.
I am a cop show fan so I felt I could help the police find the thieves. I told them the school the twin girls went to and the elementary school the other two children went to as the kids were more than happy to talk about their schools when we first started engaging. I thought, how many 8th grade twin girls could there be in one school right? Well, there were 2 sets of twins in the 8th grade at the middle school and the police only had a 1 year old school annual for me to look at. They did not want to have the twins called in for a lineup and me ID them so nothing happened. I had the video store manager put the tape aside at the time of the purchase in the video store showing the face of the card user so the bank could have evidence. The credit card company had the exact time of attempted purchase and the video store had the tape. The bank did not want to pursue the debit card withdrawal because it was not $5,000 and the police did not want to follow up since they would not let me ID the twin girls in 8th grade.
The moral of the story is to just be prepared to stop charges if your cards are stolen. BIGGER lesson.. Do NOT leave your purse out in an Open House!
Chase Bank sent us a letter today telling us how to "Stay protected around the clock with real-time Fraud Alerts" with text messaging. I would suggest you contact your bank to see what programs they have to notify you of suspicious transaction on your account.
Suggested Action list:
- Make a list of all your credit cards and the contact numbers for fraud.
- Contact your bank to see what Fraud Alert Systems they have in place to protect you.
- Change all your passwords frequently and do not use numbers or names associated with you.