Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Time out for a word from our sponsor . . .

Well, not exactly my sponsor. More like me in the hat I wear for work. I'm sure you all know this, but a reminder now and then can't hurt.

Most people never look at their credit card statements or bank statements. Only 11% of people with checking accounts balance their checkbooks and of those only 5% balance them more than once a year. Between credit card use, online banking, ATM's and overdraft protection people depend on their financial institution to keep track of how much money they actually have.

If you are one of the people who never check their statements then please make an effort to change your habits. As a credit union employee I check my account every day to see what has cleared through checking and what charges have hit my credit card. Today I found three fraudulent charges, all for Lowe's in California, that totaled well over $2000. I immediately went downstairs to have our cards blocked and learned there are lots more charges that have been OK's but won't post to the account until tomorrow. The total amount of the fraud so far is over $4200 - all charges from California, We live over 1500 miles from California and haven't been there in over 10 years.

Here's the really scary part. Both of us still have our credit cards in our possession. As I have taught many fraud classes to our new employees I'm very careful with our information. All credit card slips are shredded. We never leave our cards in a locked car. We have new cards delivered to the credit union instead of our mail box. We never put credit card information online unless it's a secure site and we have initiated the transaction. Nevertheless, these charges were made with a card, so someone has obtained all our card information, including the encoded information in the magnetic strip, and has produced a fraudulent card. Somewhere someone took our card out of our sight - at a restaurant or a store - long enough to run it through a card skimmer and store our information. They then downloaded this information to a computer and sold it to a professional thief who pays well for information used to make fraudulent cards. They had a field day with our card for two or three days until I caught them. Imagine how much fun they could have had if I didn't keep close track of our account?

So please - be very careful with your personal information. Keep your eyes on your credit cards. Shred all receipts and other items with personal information. Regularly go over your financial statements. Report any questionable entries immediately. Never leave your purse or wallet in a locked car on an unlocked drawer somewhere at work. Keep your social security card in a locked box at home or a safe deposit box. Never give out your social security number to anyone who doesn't have a good reason to ask for it.

OK - taking off my Credit Union Training Manager hat and stepping off my soapbox - back to our regularly scheduled program.

(It's a good thing I'm not shopping for fabric any more - not having a credit card for 10 days or so would have put a serious cramp in my shopping in the past LOL!)

28 comments:

Sue said...

That's sure scary, especially the fact that no matter how careful you are, there's still a chance that some clever thief will find a way. I hope you don't have any further problems with your credit over this. Thanks for the reminder-

Vinda said...

I'm sorry you were victimized. Credit card & identity thefts are far too common. There doesn't seem to be anyway to fully block the bad guys.

I'm glad you noticed the problem so quickly.

Nadine said...

Good idea to remind this to us, Patti ! You're never too careful, especially in that matter. Personnally, I opted for "Safe homebanking". I check my accounts daily, and pay the bills through my computer. The security is quite good, as you get a special pin code that changes everyday. This code is given by the bank, through a special "apparatus" (not bigger than a pocket calculator), in which you have first to identify yourself with a personal pin code (that you can change, whenever you want). You can also block any payment through it, it's immediate. Through this "Safe Homebanking", I can also check where I am with my phone bill, electricity, etc... and thus "brake" when necessary, in order to keep my outcomes budget balanced. It's now a habit to sit daily ,in front of my accounts, for a few minutes.....
But to tell you the truth, I much rather prefer using REAL money, when shopping : it helps me staying in budget, which is sooo easy to pass over with a credit card !

Thanks for this post, Patti, sometimes life is so easy, that we forget to be careful and keep control !

Biiiig hugs & smiles,
NADINE.

PS : I was going to forget telling you that I just LOVE this Hot Apple Pie quilt !

Lily said...

Love the Hot Apple Pie quilt too. And yikes re skimmers. I check all my statements too for that very reason.

Deb Sews Quilts said...

This is great information. I have been in banking for almost 25 years and I am continually amazed about how some do not take better care of their money. Again, this was a great public announcement!

Anonymous said...

I live in Indiana and about a year and a half ago, someone had our information and tried to spend over a $1000 on some office equipment. In New York. I don't know why, but they tried to change our billing address and my credit card company caught that and denied the charge till they talked to me. I have the feeling that trying to change our billing address is what made the company catch it.

Like you, my credit card is with me at all times. I shred all receipts. I don't even use the card that much, primarily for on-line purchases and I always make sure it is a secure site. So how they got my number is more than I have ever been able to figure out.

However, several years ago I ordered a camera or camera equipment from a place in New York. When the item arrived I was checking out the bill. I don't know why I noticed the credit card number, but it was not ours! Not even close. I quickly called the company and told them what had happened...the person I spoke with tried to imply that I had had my credit card numbers memorized and mistakenly given him the wrong number. He was totally wrong, besides the fact that the number did not resemble any of credit cards we had.

Carolyn said...

We had this happen to us as well, the criminal had gotten our numbers, had a card made and was making small purchases...I guess to see if he was caught before he made a big purchase. We caught it right away and had the card cancelled. We were fortunate. Another thing to watch for is monthly charges that you don't recognize. My son bought some posters online. At checkout he clicked on a window that offered him a $10 discount on his next purchase. Turns out it was some sort of scam and charged him $20 a month until I caught it because I happened to look at his account. It had been on for 3 months. He cancelled it, but is out the $60. Can't be too careful anymore!

I love the hot apple pie too...so simple and beautiful!

The Calico Cat said...

WOW, thanks of the eye-opening example... Off to check the on-line banking...

back to blogging in a, minute or two...

Leah S said...

Yikes! Makes me feel better that I checked the bank statement online yesterday and that I carefully go over every credit card statement.

I currently try to pay for cash with everything. Ok, not gas. But groceries, eating out, the little stores, etc. I'm feeling better for paying for cash for last night's dinner out!

Screen Door said...

Life gets in such a hurry. This is something we can't take for granted. Thanks for sharing...

Lois R. said...

Yikes! Thanks for the info.

Marcie said...

I hate that! What is wrong with people that they have to steal from others. After a trip to Arizona our bank called and said that our card was being used in Mexico! Like you mentioned, I think someone must have replicated it, because we both had our cards. That creeps me out!

Libby said...

An excellent reminder. I worked in the credit union for many years and fall into the 5% group - I am a serial checkbook balancer and statement checker *s* But it's important to know that just because you are vigilant you are not subject to problems. I hope your cards are quickly straightened out and that no damage from the use of personal information is done to your credit record.

Gail said...

thanks for the reminder, Patti, we all need a heads up once in a while.

Suze said...

Thanks for the heads up. You are so right, one must remain vigilant.

Pam said...

Great reminder. I have had family that had that happen as well, so far I have been lucky. I do check my card - I just keep all my purchases to one card - that way it is really easy to keep an eye on things. My husband goes through his banking with a magnifying glass.

paula, the quilter said...

I'm obsessive about checking my accounts! Didn't use to be. Thanks for the reminder!

Samantha said...

So scary that happened, and so good you knew to look for it! I was just informed by my credit union that my visa debit card is at risk, as a store chain has informed them 300k customers' data has been "compromised". Sigh...

Susan said...

Wow, they really did have a good time! How awful. I try not to use my debit card for anything that has to leave my hands, or online purchases, so no one has access to my checking account, but it's very difficult. I've started letting the bank pay bills instead of sending checks and leaving account info online. It's just scary these days!

Clare said...

Our UK bank is so up to speed with our movements, it's scary! I was the only person to use the debit card on our recent trip back to the UK. The bank didn't seem concerned that a card issued to a French address was being used in the UK. When we got back to France and I needed to draw a whole load of Euros out to pay various bills, they stopped it toute suite! It took 48 hours to get it reactivated!

Shelina said...

Wow Patti, I'm so sorry you have to go through this. I thought you were going to say that people who work at banks, credit unions, etc., are people and make mistakes too. Those are much easier corrected than what you went through. I too check my accounts frequently, and when it comes to things like this, you can never be too careful.

ForestJane said...

Glad you got it stopped quickly, and thanks for the reminder! Makes you think twice about letting your credit card EVER leave your hands, doesn't it?

EileenKNY said...

Thanks for the warning, Patti. In '05 my bank called me to tell me that they had denied a charge from the UK on my account. Apparently someone went into a discount store over there and tried to make a purchase for over $1200. Since I had just used the card here the day before, somehow the bank's computer picked up on it and denied the charge. I had to be issued a new card and I felt so violated.
These people have way too much time on their hands-if they're smart enough to do this kind of stuff, imagine what they could do legitimately if they would only put their minds to it.

JudyL said...

We've had the same thing happen to us. Amazing! Thanks for the reminder.

Finn said...

Hi Patti, thanks for taking the time and putting on your managers hat for us! I think that kind of reminder is always a good thing. I haven't experienced any problems, but I'm with Libby in that I keep up weekly and from day to day with my checking account. I don't write alot of checks so it's not that hard to do.
I had to learn(from scratch) how to do a bank statement when DH left, but I've never missed a month in the 12 years since he's gone. The credit card part is scary, they take it to the register to "slide", that's the part I don't care for. Think I'll be supplementing my gift certificate with cash tonight at Applebee's...*VBS* Big hugs, Finn

Joanne said...

Wow -- good thing you were on top of it. Thanks for the reminders. You just pointed out how easy it is to be a victim of fraud.

Evelyn aka Starfishy said...

TJ Maxx and I believe Marshalls systems was broken into and anyone who made purchases there are at risk- my local bank is reissuing new credit card numbers to all their customers because of this. So - maybe that is what happened to you. Also - your card # can easily be lifted if you use it to pay at the gas pump - I always go inside - theives have some way of putting a decoder at the pumps. Lucky for you that you caught this very early.

Cheers!
Evelyn

Judy H. said...

A coworker once had someone try to use her card at a hospital in Uganda! She never did find out where that breach happened. So scary what can happen.