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Credit Card Safety

The other day, on my way home from work, I got a text message from my credit card company asking me if I had just made a purchase for groceries in the amount of $309 and change.  Seeing as I had been at work all day, the answer was no.  So I responded as such.  I got a response to call their fraud line as soon as possible.

When I got home, I pulled the card out of my wallet and called the fraud line.  Looks like someone had once again gotten their hands on my credit card number and was making purchases.  Groceries, clothes, $200 worth of office supplies…  Out of curiosity, I asked if they could pinpoint the area and not just the state, and it was happening in a town a few hours south of here.

But the interesting part?  These weren’t online purchases.  These were in person transactions.  That meant that someone had a physical copy of my card, likely a cloned one, seeing as the actual card was still in my purse.  Sure, I suppose it was possible that someone had ordered a duplicate card from the credit card company and then stolen it out of my mailbox when I wasn’t home, but it’s much more likely that it was cloned.

How does this sort of thing happen?  I’m guessing it was a credit card skimmer.  These are devices either attached to a credit card reader or used separately to record the credit card data.  You hear about them being put onto ATMs and at gas pumps.  I have a feeling that mine was stolen at a gas pump.  I admit, I’m not always as cautious as I should be.  I don’t take a good look at the credit card slot before I insert my card.  I definitely will be paying closer attention from now on.

I did a bit of research and apparently a “good” company can steal and replicate a card incredibly quickly.  I always assumed it would be a longer process, but your card can get stolen, cloned, sold, and used all within a week.  These thieves are getting advanced!

The good news is that my credit card company is awesome.  They caught this before I had the chance to notice something was up.  I’m not responsible for the charges.  They cancelled the card and are sending me a new one.  Now I’m just flipping all of my automatic charges over to my other main card and the problem will be solved.  Pretty simple, isn’t it?

The lesson here is to pay attention where you use your credit cards, and make sure that you’re checking the charges on your account from time to time.  Because I download everything into YNAB, I would have noticed this eventually, but if you never check the charges made, you might completely miss it.  Of course, if your credit card company is awesome, they’ll catch it for you and your problems will be solved before you know they exist.

2 comments to Credit Card Safety

  • Matt

    Same thing just happened to me, too, with two separate cards. Both banks were really great about alerting me to the charges and then refunding the money, though for one I had to have DC police come to my house so I could file a police report (one of my banks required it), even though the fraudulent charges were made in Miami. The DC officer was a little confused at that but he still took the report.

  • Wow, I’ve never had to file a police report for stolen credit card info. Good to know that’s a possibility.

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