The holiday season is upon us and it is good to give – if you can. There are Salvation Army bell ringers at about any store you care to shop at. Every time I eat at Red Devil downtown, someone has a story about needing gas money or busfare. As I recently found out, sometimes you do not have a choice in the giving. Sometimes the giving is a matter of taking.
I was unfortunately the victim of credit fraud this past week. Luckily, I had been a credit fraud virgin. It was news to me when I received a letter from my credit union saying how my card had recently been declined for lack of funds. What? Lack of funds? I called the bank and sure enough someone had been enjoying my money without my consent i.e ripping me off.
I am happy to give, but not exactly like that.
And what exactly did the thieves enjoy at my expense? My money went on a wonderful semi-tour of the U.S.
3 Red Box rentals in Illinois.
A tankful of gas in New Mexico.
Another tankful of gas in Tucson.
Some groceries in Oro Valley.
Unfortunately for the new owners of my card number, the money therein ran out. There would be no big TV or computer or car buying or Las Vegas weekends on my account. These geniuses risked jail time for Red Box.
The reality is that the people who hacked my credit card number will likely never be caught. I asked the police officer who took the report if they ever catch the people who do this, and she said sometimes, though I got the feeling it was more like not too often. The police officer said Arizona was the worst in the nation for identity and credit fraud.
I asked both the police officer and the representative at my credit union how this happened and they said thieves could have gotten my account from anywhere. Anywhere! Use your card, and you put yourself at risk. Though it seems like the likely place was at the gas pumps.
It seems all too easy for thieves to attach skimmers to gas pump credit card readers and hack your account information from there. Read more about gas pump credit scams here. It’s called really paying for convenience.
And the next time you eat out, think about that really nice waiter or waitress. They could be skimming your credit card info too. Is that what they call the new way to tip?
In an electronic world, what do we do? It is not so easy to pay with cash for everything.
I will think twice about using my card at the gas pumps from now on. I will go inside to use my card (though no guarantee there either) or pay with cash or not drive anymore. I could always live in Tanzania with the chimpanzees though that might be drastic.
The best bet for all of us is to keep a close eye on our money. If one purchase comes up that you did not make, and it’s usually a small one (in my case the Red Box rentals), then call your bank.
I did not check my account for a week and by then the thieves had cleaned me out, not that there was that much to clean out!
Read about some fraud prevention tips here from Arizona State Credit Union. The security department at my credit union is usually spot on about calling me for suspicious activity, though they really dropped the ball on this one. Why purchases made in Illinois, New Mexico and Tucson in the same day did not raise a red flag, I do not know.
Credit card fraud can be a big business. An Arizona man named Frank Hernandez stole enough American Express corporate credit cards to rack up a cool million in stolen goods. Read more here. Hey Frank, how about putting that brain to some honest work?
If you could figure out how to steal a million, you could probably do about anything.
So, in the spirit of the season, please do give and be thankful, but please keep your hands off of my wallet!
File this under: I love technology!