It’s the holiday season, so naturally, fraudsters are making their moves to separate you from your cash and credit cards. With the frantic shopping, demands from the little ones that Santa fill their lists and visiting family, it can become a bit complicated trying to keep up with all of your purchases, receipts, shopping lists – and for some, their credit card. Many aren’t even aware their card has been stolen until they see their monthly statements.
While it might seem incredible that someone could go days or weeks with no idea their card has been stolen, the hurried nature of the holidays tends to overwhelm so many of us.
I used my MasterCard the day after Thanksgiving to fill my car. That was the first time I’d used it since the summer. After I swiped my card, I stuck it back in my wallet. It just happened to be the one on top in the little slats in my wallet. I had no idea it was even missing since I’d been using my debit card for most all of my other purchases,
said one frantic shopper this week, who also received her credit card statement this week. A nearly-maxed out credit card balance isn’t at all what she was expecting, especially considering she had charged only $75 in gas and the balance prior to her post-Thanksgiving fuel-up was zero.
The good news is, for many consumers, it has become a bit more easy to track transactions, especially if you have text alerts set with your accounts to let you know, via your smartphone, any time any transaction occurs. It’s like watching your account around the clock and in real time. If you haven’t already done so, it can be a powerful tool for protecting your identity and your credit.
Makin’ Mama Proud
Then, of course, there are those…less than smart, shall we say…crooks. These are the ones who make the evening news, complete with mugshots, and stories of their failed efforts of credit card fraud. Take the man who tried to use a stolen credit card in front of a police officer. A mother had called her local police department to report her 27-year-old son had taken her credit card without her knowledge or permission. According to police, the son had purchased a carton of cigarettes at a local convenience store. After an officer arrived to follow up on the charge, the man, in his wisdom, walked right back into the store and tried to use the stolen credit card. Again. He was arrested on-site and charged with theft and receiving stolen property.
And then, there’s the bicycle thief. Ogden, Utah police are on the lookout for another man who used a stolen credit card to buy a bicycle. Interestingly enough, the thief was caught on surveillance video riding off into the sunset on his new bicycle. The credit card was stolen from an unlocked car.
For those who are slightly smarter, but only to the extent they’re not photographed with the stolen loot or are brazen enough to use the stolen credit card in front of law enforcement, they are often far more difficult to catch and prosecute, especially if they electronically steal credit or identity data. This is why it’s more important than ever to remain vigilant.
While big retailers, like Target and Wal Mart, have extensive security measures in place for online shoppers, there are those who simply cannot afford the massive security applications, especially if they’re small businesses. While many do, the option of real time text alerts become even more attractive for consumers. Your credit card company and bank spends billions each year for this type of technology, and for most consumers, it’s free. Text alerts or email alerts are just one more safeguard we can put in place on our end to keep our information safe. Online companies feel it’s their responsibility to keep their shoppers safe, but consumers have an obligation as well as they go about their business.
Not only that, but more and more retailers are spending even more to better monitor trends and potential breaches. In fact, consumers are being notified even before they realize their credit has been compromised.
The number of fraud reports have grown significantly since last year’s holiday season. It’s an ongoing effort and one that requires constant vigilance – by businesses, banks, credit card companies and the consumers who use those products. As long as there are credit cards and identities to steal, we’ll be dealing with fraudsters. Many have just gone high tech, making it more difficult – though not impossible – for law enforcement and the credit card companies that promise their customers zero fraud charges.
Have you been victim of credit card theft or identity theft? How long did it take to get the problem solved? Share your story with our readers. We want to hear from you.