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Copycat Crime

Howard Rohleder, 1:13 pm ET

I WAS SITTING AT MY computer one lunchtime when an email popped up from one of my credit card companies, saying I’d just purchased nearly $12,000 of jewelry at a store in Toronto. Within minutes, I was on the phone to the card company.

I was quickly referred to the fraud unit. I told my story. The company credited my account, cancelled the card and mailed me replacements. Weeks later, I had to complete a form, signing off on my statement describing what happened. Months later, the company sent me a letter formally closing the case and saying I had no liability.

What I learned was that someone had called the card company, pretending to be me, and requested a duplicate card while I was supposedly traveling in Canada. Apparently, the caller supplied enough identifying information that a card was priority shipped to Canada. This had occurred several months before the Toronto transaction. The card was presented in person at the jewelry store.

I had set up a series of account alerts online, which is why I knew instantly when the fraud occurred. I suspect I was reporting the crime minutes after the fraudster had left the jewelry store. What baffled me was that there was no alert setting for receiving a duplicate card, let alone receiving a duplicate card in a foreign country. This fraud could have been easily prevented if the card company had emailed me, saying it had issued a duplicate card and shipped it to Canada.

Nonetheless, fraud alerts on your banking and credit card accounts can be valuable. After the jewelry incident, I reviewed my settings and tightened them further. Different banks may have slightly different alerts. But generally, they can be categorized as security alerts, transaction alerts and payment alerts. Some are there to protect you from your own mistakes, while others protect you and the financial firm from fraud.

  • Security alerts identify unusual transactions, such as those made internationally.
  • Spending alerts warn if you’re approaching your credit limit or have a transaction above a defined amount.
  • Payment alerts remind you of due dates and let you know of payments made or missed.

Because the alerts can be customized, you control how tightly your account is monitored and therefore the frequency with which you can expect alert notifications. You also decide if the alert comes by email, text or both. Alerts help you spot a fraudulent transaction before it shows up on your next monthly statement—which is a plus, because you’re less likely to be held liable.

When setting up alerts, don’t forget about your debit cards. That includes the debit card associated with your home equity or personal line of credit. You may not carry it or use it often, which is all the more reason to know immediately if it’s being misused.

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David Powell
David Powell
1 month ago

Some banks and credit card companies can now use their mobile app to properly authenticate you for a customer service call, which makes this kind of attack much harder.

With so many massive hacks which involved theft of personally identifiable information (like Equifax’s), impersonating another to commit fraud has become far too easy. It’s wise to choose financial services companies as much for their investments in security and fraud detection as for their financial strength, customer service quality, and rates.

IAD
IAD
1 month ago

There is no compelling reason to have a debit card. Zero.

Jonathan Clements
Admin
Jonathan Clements
1 month ago
Reply to  IAD

Perhaps there’s no reason to use a debit card in stores. But isn’t a debit card how most people get cash from an ATM?

mytimetotravel
mytimetotravel
1 month ago

At one time I was able to get an ATM card that was not also a debit card, but that doesn’t seem possible any more. However, I don’t carry the ATM/debit card with me unless I expect to visit the ATM and never use it as a debit card. Since I almost never use cash these days I can’t remember the last time I needed an ATM – except when traveling.

Ormode
Ormode
1 month ago

Well, my bank sends out an alert when a duplicate card is issued. Perhaps you should suggest that to your bank? The proper time to ask was when you had the Fraud department on the phone.

R Quinn
R Quinn
1 month ago

I too use every alert possible especially since someone ordered $25,000 of industrial equipment online for a company in Paducah, Kentucky using my info. My favorite was an alert I got that someone tried to use my debt card at a McDonalds in Brooklyn. How do you use a debit card without the card or PIN?

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
1 month ago

Harold, thanks for the helpful post. I’m a firm believer in these alerts—and I share your puzzlement as to why there are none for duplicate card requests.

I find it very comforting to get notice every time one of my cards is used so I can call it in quickly if something’s awry. Sadly, that seems to be a fact of modern life as I go through the process you described on a semi-regular basis these days.

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