Thursday, February 25, 2016

It Happens Everyday

Valentines Day was a bit different this year. While went to a new local restaurant for a treat, someone else decided to do a bit of splurging, using my VISA card.  They apparently purchased a piece of jewelry for over $700.  They also paid for a credit check through Trans Union.

When I noticed these strange charges on our account I called my hubby right away. I didn't want him to try to get gas on the way home from work only to discover his credit card was refused. He is the primary card holder, so I figured he was the one who would have to call VISA.  He did that, and was told that it was actually my card that had been used for these fraudulent purchases, and so I would have to call in too.

When I called I found out that whoever was using my card had also tried for something worth over $2000. The VISA people knew these charges were not mine, and had already locked down the card. This particular card was originally obtained to make online purchases with. It has a very low limit, so when thing like this happen they don't go through and we don't have to worry much.  I hardly ever use the credit card myself.  I can count on the fingers of one hand how many businesses I used it for this past year...or ever, for that matter.  It was really easy for the VISA people to spot this fraud and put an end to it. They cancelled my card that day, and my new one has just now arrived.

In the meantime, I didn't like the idea of someone getting their hands on my personal information through Trans Union, so I placed a call to them to let them know what had happened.  Firstly off, let me say that their phone system is extremely confusing. It's an automated system but the recording does not give you a chance to have the options repeated. I dialed several times while trying to figure out what button to push next.

When I finally reached humans, they were heavily accented, spoke quickly and were hard to understand. They asked a lot of personal questions to verify my identity. I actually started to wonder how I could verify theirs! Anyway, I was told that there was no activity under my name but urged to put a warning on my account ($5 for 6 years). That would require them to contact me before giving out a credit report to anyone asking for it. For this service I would have to come up with another credit card number, since my VISA was cancelled.  Though I didn't feel comfortable with that idea, I was forwarded to that department.

At last I had an English speaking person, or at least one that spoke with no accent, but he seemed to have difficulty understanding that I just wanted to make sure my information had not been sent out to someone else.  I finally discovered that my credit card had been used, to the tune of $19.95,  to order information on someone named Robert Banks.  They asked if I knew him and when I said no.

I was then forwarded to a supervisor in the expedited section. He confirmed that my own info had not been accessed and that Robert Burns was likely a victim of fraud too.  He put locks on both the account that had been created, and though I told him that my credit card had been cancelled, he also cancelled it at his end, so it could never be used again.

One would think this would be the end of the story, but even after my hubby had been able to make a purchase at the drug store last weekend, his card was refused the next time he tried to use it.  The bank could see no reason for that, as there appeared to be plenty of room for the transaction to go through.  Another series of calls to VISA indicated that though the Valentines Day splurge had been stopped, that $700 charge had not yet been cleared from the system and any further purchases would have put him over the limit.  It was frustrating not being able to see when it was cleared and resulted in another embarrassing moment when the card was turned down again, even after being told that it would be okay to use by then. 

I don't know why it took so long to clear that one charge, as the company who made the sale even called me at one point. They asked if I'd bought something from them, and I told them I had not.  I had never heard of this company, but apparently they are down in New York someplace.  I imagine that they lost the item they sold, and are out the money for it.

One thing I'm glad of is that we do have this "little" card, which is used primarily for online purchases and buying gas.  Who knows how much damage could have been done if it had of been one of our other credit cards that had been compromised.  I had asked the VISA people if they could tell where the card number had been stolen from.  The lady said that scammers spend all day finding ways to get these numbers, and sometimes they even just make them up. The person that called about the jewelry purchase knew my name and my phone number, so I don't imagine the card number was picked out of a hat on this occasion.  When looking at the places I've used the card, I've come up with my own idea of where the number was obtained.  I have, several times over the past years, used the Walmart photo centre to order prints.  I place the order online, and pick it up when I go to in that direction.  Last summer there was a data breach that involved Walmart Canada's Photocentre Website. I suspect the crooks have been sitting on a pile of numbers, just waiting to use them.  If you used that service during the period between June 2014 and July 2015, you could also still be at risk. Keep an eye on your credit card statements, and if  you have not changed your password on the Walmart site, I suggest you do so.  They are thinking of opening the site up again soon.

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