Cosmic Cow Pie: Connecting the Dots


Credit Card Fraud! Are You Prepared?

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.  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. 

                  Chase web site

 Suggested Action list:

  1. Make a list of all your credit cards and the contact numbers for fraud.
  2. Contact your bank to see what Fraud Alert Systems they have in place to protect you. 
  3. Change all your passwords frequently and do not use numbers or names associated with you.

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Cosmic Cow Pie

Carra Riley

Comment balloon 44 commentsCarra Riley & Declan Kenyon • September 24 2010 01:39AM


Carra, these are wonderful words of wisdom, working on getting all of that mess straight takes months, so I am told. We had a purse stolen at gun point about 25 years ago, these "guys" did eight (8) armed robberies in one night and got caught. Funny, they ID us to the police.

May you and your family no longer need credit cards and become CASH ONLY folks with no accounts tied to each other, at least not without authorization.


Posted by Ted J. Macy (Top Agents Atlanta Metro) almost 10 years ago

Scary.  Debit cards are a little safer with PIN numbers.  I've been using cash now, easier to maintain my weekly budget.   I've seen women in the grocery stores just leave their purses sitting in the cart -- very easily accessed.  They're off pricing potatoes and not even paying attention.  Good reminder to be on guard!!

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) almost 10 years ago

Excellent post... something we all need to be reminded of. 

A couple tips:  To keep track of my credit cards I laid them on my scanner and recorded them, then saved the file to my computer.  Also, I may take my purse into open houses, but I always remove my wallet and put it in my console.  Once inside, I put my purse in a cupboard or closet.  They may still find it but at least it's not obvious.

Posted by Christine Hart Howlett, Keller Williams Greater Cleveland NE (Painesville and Eastern Lake County) almost 10 years ago

Comment #1 ~  It is very sad that adults are teaching young children how to rob people.

Ted ~  Thank you for the "Cash wishes"  I like the airline points :)

Carla ~  In 31 years that only happened once.  Think about it.. we have signs directing people to our open houses.. most open houses have one agent in them... We advertise the address and say come and look.... so alertness is very important.

Christine ~  Good suggestions with the purse and you better believe I know where it is all the time now!

Posted by Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) almost 10 years ago

My grandmother had hers stole of the first floor steps in her own house.

She left the door open to bring in groceries.

Always try to put limits on your cards to get notified of any large purchases.

Enjoy the day

Posted by Don MacLean, Realtor-Homes for Sale- Easton Mass (New England Real Estate Center Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Don ~  Great ideas.. limits on purchase without authorization!  thanks.. sorry to hear about your grandmother.  Just another thing to be careful about!

Posted by Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) almost 10 years ago

I only know one person who has had that kind of trouble.  It is smart to protect yourself.

Posted by Elite Home Sales Team, A Tenacious and Skilled Real Estate Team (Elite Home Sales Team OC) almost 10 years ago

Christine-not sure it's a good idea to keep the cards on your computer. What if it gets hacked or if you take it for repairs and someone gets the credit card numbers?

Posted by Patty Clark, Helping Families Move with Care (Morningside Homes, LLC 720-231-5200) almost 10 years ago

Carra, what a hassle!  Even if you get the money back, it still takes time out of your day to run these things down.  I always put my purse in a cupboard unlikely to be opened. Or leave it in the car as I can use a code to unlock the car.   This is a good reminder for us all.

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach ( (757) 560-0881) almost 10 years ago

Carra-my daughter and her husband got a call from their credit card company regarding an on-line purchase from Apple for about $2500.  These folks weren't to smart though.  Snce they were buying on-line the package had a delivery address associated with it.  Guess you know who was there when the package was delivered.  Charges are pending...wait charges against the theives are pending and the charges on the credit card were erased.  The computer is in evidence.  Hmmm wonder if it will get returned to the store?

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) almost 10 years ago

This is great advice Carra. My parents lived in France for many years and had this happen to them on several different occasions. Fortunately their bank was on the ball and they suffered no real loss. My brother also does a lot of traveling and had his wallet stolen. It is so important to have all of the information in another location for every single card that is in your wallet so if this does occur, you can be quick to respond. Also be sure to not carry your social security card with you in your wallet. Once someone has that, it could be years of financial struggles. You may also place an alert on your credit report if there has been fraudulent activity that any inquiry to apply for new credit must be authorized by you personally at xxx phone #.

Posted by Stephanie Reynolds, East County San Diego Homes 619-838-4408 (Integrity First Financial Group, Inc. ) almost 10 years ago's a horrible experience & I've had the calls from VISA too on my's unnerving...i know alot of the past scams with cameras, card readers to capture your card # at an ATM or gas station from my past life...but we all get lax.

One thing i do at open houses is leave my purse in my trunk locked...i never need to be concerned anymore & my bottle of mace stays by my side...great post

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) almost 10 years ago

Carra:  Great advice -- had my account hacked by an employee of a store where I used my card.  Twice!!

We just can't be too careful, especially in this economy.

Posted by Tish Lloyd, Broker - Wilmington NC and Surrounding Beaches (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) almost 10 years ago

Mark and Tim ~  good for you!

Chris and Patty ~  our list is in a PAPER folder... not on the computer.  You are right about the issues having it on the computer.

Kathryne ~ I don't know why I had my head in the clouds about the purse... won't ever do that again!

Cindy ~  gives new meaning to the phrase "some people are so stupid they don't know they are stupid"  wow..

Stephanie ~ Being very careful with where you have your money and cards is so important.

Ginny ~  hopefully this was just a heads up... we all become lax.  It's hard when your server in a restaurant takes your number.... don't know how to get around that one except CASH.

Tish ~  It is sad we have to start wondering about everyone touching our card.. I guess that is where the finger prints or pupil reading is going to come in handy!  I'll sure be ready when it arrives!


Posted by Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) almost 10 years ago

Ugh.  Makes me sick Carra.  Sorry that you had to go through that.  Someone broke into our hotel on our honeymoon while we slept and took our wallets.  The hotel did everything they could to deny it but when charges showed up at 3 in the morning in a town 90 miles away, clearly that wasn't us.  

Even when you have possession of your card, you feel so violated!  The nerve!

Posted by Tricia Hoffmann (Your Home Free) almost 10 years ago

Hi Carra!

It is so sad to see so many people get hurt by low life criminals...

Posted by Joshua Zargari, MJ Decorators Workshop (MJ Decorators Workshop LI staging and home decorating) almost 10 years ago

Carra, I had a similar situation at a gas station along the freeway in Escondido.  I bought gas and less than 2 hours later the thieves had used my debit card information at Target in Santee.  Fortunately my bank alerted me and I was refunded the money.  Timely warning and good post!  ~ Susan

Posted by Susan Laxson CRS, Local Knowledge & Global Network (Palm Properties) almost 10 years ago

Carra, unfortunately this is going to be repeated very often, especially as people are scrambling for money. I will be sure to leave my purse in the trunk of my car when I do my next open house. That couple getting touched for $25,000 that hurts

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) almost 10 years ago

Carra ~ I got a call from Discover back over Mother's Day while visiting family in Chicago.  They wanted to know if I had used my card for any online purchases.  My card was immediately cancelled and they sent me a new one and I was not responsible for any of the charges.  You can never be too careful.

Posted by Dawn A Fabiszak, The Dawn of a New Real Estate Experience! (Private Label Realty ( Denver metro area, Colorado) almost 10 years ago


Great warning post...Just have to be even more careful these days.  It is also important to destroy the key cards to your hotel room as that strip has your credit card information, don't leave them in the room, I always take mine with me.

Posted by Ron and Alexandra Seigel, Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy (Napa Consultants) almost 10 years ago

Been there done that!  A smash and grab thief threw a rock through the passenger window of my car and grabbed my tote, wallet and all.  Had to cancel all my cards, get new driver's license and close my bank accounts.  What a nightmare--it tooks months to get everything straightened out.


Posted by Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities, Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A. (Charlemagne International Properties) almost 10 years ago

Carra...scary story and real too.  good points you posted. One can never be too careful. Our CC co. also called
           about a purchase not from us; cancelled the card, received a new one. A hassle but here the company did
           a good thing.
           We have done two things proactively:
             ...paid for 'Life-lock' protection
             ...set a top limit on active card purchases [I got caught by this when didn't know about limit & was
               $1.58 over the limit. Worked!}

         Always positive to remind others of credit situations like this.
         have a grand weekend.



Posted by Barb & Sal Dragotta, Macomb County Michigan almost 10 years ago

These thieves are on the lookout for the slightest carelessness on our part.  I think a good rule of thumb at an open house is to leave your purse locked in your car. 

Posted by Jane Peters, Los Angeles real estate concierge services (Home Jane Realty) almost 10 years ago

Look at the update I just got from my local Assocaition about NAR!  Corporate Identity Theft... this is very sad!



NAR's Finance division has become aware of a scam under which fraudulent checks are being issued to people from the "National Assoc of Realtors." After recipients deposit the checks, they receive a request to return some of the funds. The scam succeeds when the recipients comply by sending their own funds before the fraudulent checks from "NAR" are returned unpaid. There is no financial risk to NAR as a result of this scam; rather, the risk is to NAR's financial reputation if word were to spread that NAR is somehow involved in distributing fraudulent checks. Please alert your members that their national association is not involved in these actions but is a victim of corporate identity theft. For more info contact John Pierpoint, 312/329-8260.

Posted by Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) almost 10 years ago

Tricia ~ your honeymoon.. how sad :(

Joshua ~  it is very sad.. I am ready for the fingerprint or eye scan.

Susan ~  As everyone is sharing it is really evident this is a huge problem and many people are being touched!  So getting on the alert system with banks is a MUST do these days!

Ed ~  That would be a good plan to keep "your man purse" in the car :) yes.. what a pain for the European  ATM machine scam!

Dawn ~  I am so glad the banks are calling.. it is great they are watching so close.

Ron and Alexandra ~  I went round and round with a desk attendant at Hilton when I said I wanted it destroyed in front of me when returning it.. they said my info was not on there.. now I just keep it likeyou said and cut it up myself.

Norma ~  That is horrible.. were you in a bad part of town.. that takes a lot of courage to smash in your window in town and hope that not one sees you or catches you running away with the tote!  Need to be even more alert when driving.

Barb ~  Geat tips! 

We have done two things proactively:

...paid for 'Life-lock' protection ...

set a top limit on active card purchases [I got caught by this when didn't know about limit & was $1.58 over the limit. Worked!}

Jane ~  You know when that happened at my open house I never even thought about someone taking the wallet out of my purse.... too trusting!

Posted by Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) almost 10 years ago

That is just awful.  Thank goodness they were able to get ahold of you.  Like other said this happens on a daily basis and not everyone is as lucky as you were.  I myself have arranged for protection so hopefully this won't happen to me on any type of level where I can't take care of it.  Thanks for the warning Carra!

Posted by Debbie Walsh, Hudson Valley NY Real Estate 845.283-3036 (Shahar Management) almost 10 years ago

Debra... glad people are reading.. and hope they put follow up with banks on the todo list.. so they get the alerts.   You are welcome!

Posted by Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) almost 10 years ago

Carra, I never use ATM machines so that one is easy, my credit card company has called to verify purchases so I'm happy about that and...knock on wood...I've managed to escape identity theft.   

Posted by Nick T Pappas, Madison & Huntsville Alabama Real Estate Resource (Assoc. Broker/Broker ABR, CRS, SFR, e-Pro, @Homes Realty Group, @HomesBirmingham & Providence Property Mgmnt, LLC Huntsville AL) almost 10 years ago

Nick ~  sounds like you have been successful in your methods of credit card use!

Posted by Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) almost 10 years ago

Carra first of all so sorry you to experience this awful incident but I'm really surprised by police not wanting to follow up further. 8 yr olds or not...they will grow up to bigger thieves. Then your bank not wanting to bother because the amount wasn't $5,000 holy moly just when you think you've heard it all!!!

Posted by Cynthia Bartch almost 10 years ago

Carra,  Thanks for sharing your experience... my husband had an identity theft problem a few months ago and it has taken forever to clear up.  As a result his credit was compromised and credit card companies began reducing limits, cancelling accts., etc.  What night-mare!  Sorry it happened to you!  Kathy

Posted by Kathy Schowe, La Quinta, California 760-333-8886 (California Lifestyle Realty) almost 10 years ago

Great post!  I'm sorry you had to deal with all that but at least you had the sharp eye to spot the scammers.  A lot of agents around here have been nailed by scammers before they get caught.

With PIN codes, people often use common numbers such as birthdays.  Don't use anything tied to something you have in print.  The same goes for passwords. Never use a password that someone could derive or infer from your ID or personal information.  Use numbers and passwords that are random.

Posted by Bryan Robertson almost 10 years ago

Cynthia~ You know those were my thougths exactly.. even when I sent the story to the real estate board.. they did not want to scare people.. go figure!

Kathy ~  what a bummer.. I had a title friend who actually spent a couple years getting an identity fraud issue worked out.   The person bought a house on her credit.. and the liablity was in her name.

Bryan ~  good advice... a fun passwork idea is to take your favorite quote and use the first letter of each of the words.. no one will  should figure that out... or not?

Posted by Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) almost 10 years ago

Carra this is a great post and so scary. I use only one credit card and  paypal is good for ordering on the Internet.

Posted by Rebecca Gaujot, Realtor®, Lewisburg WV, the go to agent for all real estate (Vision Quest Realty) almost 10 years ago

Carra, I am pretty careful, but of course you never know. 

Something I heard:  I don't know if I read it in AR or somewhere else, but if the criminal type knows your name and where you were born there is a 1 in 5 chance that he can guess your social security number...I thought that was a little scary.

Posted by Nick T Pappas, Madison & Huntsville Alabama Real Estate Resource (Assoc. Broker/Broker ABR, CRS, SFR, e-Pro, @Homes Realty Group, @HomesBirmingham & Providence Property Mgmnt, LLC Huntsville AL) almost 10 years ago

Rebecca ~  I really like paypal and am going to try and stick to that if possible!

Nick ~   Now that gives more food for thought  "Cosmic Shift Happens" .  I saw something on facebook a couple months ago where people where putting their birthplace on their facebook wall with nothing else to see what people would say about that city and state.. I wanted to shout to everyone  DON"T DO THIS!    Just think about it.. a lot of people have their birthday on their profile.. some people even put the year.. and if you posted say for example, Hayes, Kansas  and the scam artist knew what they were looking for.. could have your birthday and your city of birth...

Posted by Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) almost 10 years ago

Howdy and evening to you Carra

first I'm sorry for not getting by before now, my friend! I'm sure glad your credit card company called you right away. I'll neber understand why some folks think its okay to do things like that to others!

Have a good one
Dale in New Hampshire

Posted by Dale Baker, New Hampshire Relocation Real Estate Information (Baker Energy Audits and Commercial Properties Inspections) almost 10 years ago

Dale ~  Don't ever worry about being busy!  I appreciate your comments! 

Posted by Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) almost 10 years ago


This is excellent information, I am pressing the suggest button on this.  You can't emphasize this enough.  Thanks.

Posted by Ron and Alexandra Seigel, Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy (Napa Consultants) almost 10 years ago

Hi Carra! Hope all is well with you! We haven't seen you here in a while! We miss you!

Posted by Stephanie Reynolds, East County San Diego Homes 619-838-4408 (Integrity First Financial Group, Inc. ) over 9 years ago

Carra, So sorry to hear of your troubles.  Good for you that you were able to stop it from escalating into more money used.  Sad too that the police thought this was petty and not worth their time.  Stopping the young ones from learning that they can get away with this is a way to stop the bigger crimes down the road.  I guess the police are spread thin...

I always hide my purse somewhere in the out of site if I don't leave it in the car when we do opens.  I don't think I would do an open without Doug.  You brave women!

Also watch out for emails saying **ALERT!  CREDIT CARD BLOCKED*   I just had a few official emails saying my card was stopped due to suspicious activity and I need to open a link to reactivate.  I called Chase and they said they never send emails for such things.  They told me to forward the email on to their abuse department so they can stop that robber.

Thanks for this post.  Great reminder we may be watched.  Sadly a sign of the times. 


Posted by Gloria Todor, & Doug Durren (484) 431-3686 in SE PA (Century 21 Absolute Realty ) over 9 years ago

Ron and Alexandra ~  It is great when we can all help each other!

Stephanie ~   Been off on some world adventures!  back in the saddle thanks for missing me :)

Gloria ~  I had to get a new credit card which has not arrived.. all the auto pays are expiring and I am having to put another card since the replacement card has not arrived... what a pain!  Yes, I learned the purse lesson.. I was just too trusting for many years..... glad that was my only bad experience at an open house in 31 years!

Posted by Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon, Helping people Transition at all ages! (Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd) over 9 years ago

Instead of signing any of my cards I write SEE I.D. on the signature line.  And yes, what a pain to show my DL to use my card, but by George it stops other people from using it.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 9 years ago

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Overpopulation, lack of jobs, and a global economy make it tempting and easier for the criminals to do their thing.

Posted by Jim Frimmer, Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist (HomeSmart Realty West) over 9 years ago