Check Your Accounts!
May 28, 2013
How many of you have seen those advertisements on television about identity theft? Usually, after telling you all the bad things than can happen to you if someone gets your personal information, they offer you a service to help ensure that if you ever experience something like this, you will be protected. And often for a very hefty price. I would see these ads and think that they were just trying to frighten people into buying something. Nothing even remotely like this could happen to me. I am always very good with my personal information, especially my credit card number, and I felt that as long as I continued to be vigilant, I’d be okay. I was wrong.
One day I logged on to my bank’s website to do a random check of my accounts and saw something very strange. There was a small charge on my credit card for a website that I had never heard of. At first, I thought that there must be some mistake on my part, so I went over every way that I had used my card in the previous month. The problem is that I only use my credit card online with a handful of the most well-known sites, like Amazon. I never give my credit card information to small sites, because I am afraid that they may not be as careful with their information. So this web address could not possibly have gotten my credit card number from me.
I went to the site and found that it was some sort of image purchasing site. I went to the FAQ section to try to get a number for the organization behind it and was able to get a US phone number. However, when I called it, there was nothing but a garbled message that I could not understand. That is when I contacted my bank. When I informed them that there was a charge on my card that I had not made, they immediately sent me over to security, where I learned a very valuable lesson.
Apparently, people can get access to your card number in various ways, even if you don’t give it to them. People can secretly scan your credit card at a checkout or even through your wallet. They can also get access to card numbers by hacking into secure websites or over the wireless. The bank representative said that this is most likely what happened to me, considering that the amount that was charged was not very big. She said someone probably had a bunch of numbers and just did a quick random check of them to confirm that they worked. The mystery as to how my number was obtained will probably never be known, but I was fortunate to have caught it so quickly.
The good news for me was that the bank was able to remove the charge and get me a new credit card very quickly. They also offered me something that, until that moment, I probably would not have taken, ID protection. Had it not been for this incident, I would have thought it unnecessary. However, after experiencing a very close call, I decided that the small fee was worth it. Since this episode, I have become even more vigilant with my card and where I use it online. Even though I hadn’t been reckless to begin with, I am now even more cautious. And I continue to check my accounts on a regular basis to make sure that there are no irregularities.
In this day and age, being careful with your personal information is more important than ever. It is also imperative to keep an eye on your accounts to make sure that there is nothing out of the ordinary. And if there is, make sure you act upon it right away. Those commercials that try to sell you protection are still using fear to make a sale. However, some sort of protection might be wise. I recommend that people use something from their own financial institution, rather than one that they see on television. People should also be careful about giving out their credit card number online. Double check to make sure that the website is secure.
As you can probably see from my story, no matter how careful you are, it can still happen to you. The fact that it was just my credit card, and nothing more, makes me very lucky. Had it been my Social Security Number, it could have been a complete disaster. If you are looking for more information about keeping you and your family safe from this kind of theft, MCPL has some great books to help you out.
• Identity Theft ToolKit: How to Recover from and Avoid Identity Theft by John Lenardon
• Stealing Your Life: the Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan by Frank W. Abagnale
• Identity Theft for Dummies by Michael J. Arata
• Identity Theft: What It Is, How to Prevent It and What to Do If It Happens to Uou by Rob Hamadi
• Identity Theft in Today’s World by Megan M. McNally