A few months ago, out of the blue, my bank called to ask if we had recently made a purchase at Mr. Alans, a shoe store in Redford, Michigan (we live in Chattanooga). We hadn’t. The bank immediately shut down my card and denied additional online charges. I was impressed AND appreciative. They were aggressively on top of the fraud.
After some investigation, I learned that advances in the card providers’ processing practices of card usage allows providers to alert consumers of potential fraud before consumers notice anything amiss (U.S.News, 2014).
“Card providers look for patterns and search for anomalies,“ says Kurt Helwig, president of the Electronic Funds Transfer Association. If you typically use your card in the D. C. Area, and then suddenly it’s being used in Eastern Europe, they’ll flag that. Or if you usually keep your spending under $1,000 per month, a purchase for $6,000 will cause suspicion. The provider will call the consumer to verify the purchases – which I was thankful happened to me. But like most card fraud, we (and the bank) still don’t know where the fraudster got our card number. Also, before giving the bank too much credit, it still took over three hours on the phone and four more weeks to get replacement cards.
A Few Facts:
- Every two seconds, another American becomes a victim of identity fraud; 13.1 million in 2013 (CNN Money, April 2014).
- Credit card fraud costs consumers and card providers between $2.4 and $16 billion annually.
- Losses are hard to authenticate because of the discreet position most financial institutions take when asked to assess a loss figure (Consumer Reports, June 2011).
- Some reports indicate that merchants lose twenty times more than consumers (according to Forbes, March 2011).
These 8 Steps to Make ID Security a Priority and a Practice seemed to say it best (Healthy Mind, Healthy Body, March 2014):
Today – Lock It Down:
- Remove your Social Security card from your wallet. Store it – and all your personal information in a secure place.
- Change weak passwords. Do you use your birth date or part of your address or phone number? That might be an easy code for a thief to crack. The strongest passwords combine upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters.
- Make sure your home Wi-Fi network is password-protected. And, be careful how you use your devices at public hot spots. Most aren’t secure – which means any information you send is only protected if you’re on an encrypted website. To be sure a website is encrypted, look for “https” in the address before you log in or send any personal info.
This Week – Proceed with Care:
- Start being more security minded. For example, don’t click on links in unsolicited emails. And, don’t give out information over the phone or online unless you’ve verified the source.
- Keep your eye on debit and credit cards when paying for purchases. If anything seems out of the ordinary, be cautious using your card.
This month – destroy and defend:
- Shred all paperwork with personal information before disposing of it. Get in the habit of doing this routinely with mail and sensitive material.
- Review bills and bank statements carefully for unusual transactions.
- Be sure to review your credit report regularly. This can help you recognize if your identity has been stolen. You can do this yourself for free – or pay an identity theft protection company to monitor it for you.
Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA), every consumer is entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax .
Besides the annual report, you are also entitled to a free report under the following circumstances:
- A company has taken adverse action against you, such as denying you credit, insurance, or employment (you must request a copy within 60 days of the adverse action)
- You’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within the next 60 days
- You’re on welfare
- Your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft