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Numbers Game

Kyle McIntosh, 12:55 pm ET

IT HAPPENED AGAIN. For the third time in two years, our credit card number was stolen. I learned this yesterday when I received the now-too-frequent question from Chase: “Do you recognize this gas station purchase for $1?” We live nowhere near the station in question, so I knew something was amiss.

I appreciate Chase’s diligence in identifying such transactions, and the fact that we won’t be held liable for any fraudulent charges. Still, I’ve grown weary of the whole process of cancelling credit cards, especially resetting the automatic payments tied to each. On top of that, it’s unsettling to know someone is trying to buy things using one of our cards. The most frustrating thing about this latest theft: My wife and I had changed certain practices over the past year in an effort to limit the risk of fraud.

For a previous card number theft, we observed a close link between the fraud and a “new account setup” with a vendor that required us to provide our card number over the phone. We now refuse to do so. We’ve found that, for vendors requesting numbers over the phone, they usually also accept payments via Venmo or PayPal. In addition, many also have websites that allow you to make payments online. The site still asks for your number, but this seems to be more secure.

Another practice we started: We use cash for transactions where there’s a higher risk of fraud. For instance, we usually pay cash at gas stations, where skimming devices are sometimes used to steal card information. Another practice we follow: Pay cash at restaurants where the server takes your card and swipes it in another location. In such situations, it’s all too easy for a server to take a picture of the front and back of your card.

I’m hopeful we can limit future card number thefts by using these practices. At the same time, I’m researching new ways to step up our fraud prevention because our current practices clearly aren’t perfect. Any suggestions?

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Mike Zaccardi
Mike Zaccardi
1 month ago

It’s also annoying how long it takes to request a check, pay, sign, and have the server return things to you at the restaurant. It’s nice to just drop cash on the table and walk out.

Kyle Mcintosh
Kyle Mcintosh
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Zaccardi

I am almost certain that’s how I was schemed this time. I’d eaten at a restaurant the day before and the waiter had the card behind closed doors for quite a while. Super easy to just take a picture of front and back in that setting.

IAD
IAD
1 month ago

Skimming will soon be a non-existent crime, at least to those vendors that update their system. Instead of inserting your card which has the possibility for a skimmer, you can now “tap” your card on the reader and the card is authorized. Of course, this is a whole new universe for potential crime, so while it currently reduces your footprint for crime, I don’t expect it to stay that way.

Kyle Mcintosh
Kyle Mcintosh
1 month ago
Reply to  IAD

Indeed – they’ll soon figure a way to gather the info through the tap devices.

wtfwjtd
wtfwjtd
1 month ago

I’m sure you are aware of this, but text and/or email alerts every time a card is used are very helpful for us in running a tighter financial ship. No only does this shut down fraud relatively quickly, but it’s also a good reminder for entering transactions into our financial software. And, as mentioned, limiting cards to specific uses as well as just keeping your total number of cards to a minimum is great advice.

Thomas Taylor
Thomas Taylor
1 month ago

I’ve come to the conclusion the bad guys/gals will always be one step ahead and you just have to be vigilant. Resetting automatic payments can be a pain as you said. Any monthly recurring payments (utilities, phone, cable, insurance, etc.) are charged to one card. It’s not a guarantee, but hopefully the card info is a little safer than at a gas station or a restaurant. Another card is used for all other non-recurring charges, so I only have to cancel the card and wait for a new one to arrive if it’s been compromised.

Langston Holland
Langston Holland
1 month ago

No suggestions – sounds like you’ve got a good system. : )

I’m down to 4 cards:

1. A Chase Amazon Prime card that is only used for that. No issues to date for 3 years or so. (5%)

2. A Fidelity Elan card used for everything other than Amazon and online purchases. No issues to date, but I’ve only had it 1 year. (2%)

3. Two BOA cards, one personal, the other business. I’ve had both about 20 years. The business card has never had an issue. We use the personal card exclusively for non-Amazon online purchases. (3%)

The personal BOA card gets hacked about once a year, but the fraud reporting and replacement process is nearly painless. We never save the card # on websites during checkout. As of about 5 years ago BOA is batting 1000 on catching the bad guys before I do and I reconcile my accounts in Quicken at least twice a week. Thus the hassle/benefit ratio in my case is heavily in favor of continuing things as is.

Last edited 1 month ago by Langston Holland
Kyle Mcintosh
Kyle Mcintosh
1 month ago

Good tips here – thanks for sharing.

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