Identity Theft

About a week ago in the late evening a text message is buzzed on my old-style flip phone. It asks a simple question: Did I just purchase a pair of athletic shoes for x dollars?” The message is from one of my credit card issuers. It asks me to respond with YES or NO.

I quickly responded with NO. A new text message informs me to give them a call. I do and am connected to the fraudulent activities department. As a double check on what the person will tell me, I immediately log into my account information on-line. It shows two transactions. One for a trifle amount, the other is the one for which I receive the text.
The fraud agent told me not to worry- that he would remove the two phony transactions. He would now put a hold on my card and issue a new number which would be delivered in about a week. I checked again on-line a little bit later and saw indeed that the two phony charges were removed. As promised, a week later I received my new card.

Besides naturally feeling violated, I was also curious to how the credit card company was able to be suspicious of the activity. I asked my brother who is an expert in how financial institutions deal with fraud in credit card processing. I gave him the details of the two phony transactions and he immediately explained how they were catchable. I am not going to reveal what he said as I don’t want to give out information to help those who are on the wrong side of the law.

However, I did learn something that may be helpful to others thinking of ways to minimize having to go through the aggravation and sense of violation I experienced. I mentioned to a friend about the incident. He told me not to be so upset that it happened to him twice in the past- within a year of each other. He said he came across a solution that seems to work well. He found a credit card company that issues virtual ids to the holder- one for each merchant from which he purchases. In other words, if he uses that issuer to purchase from three different stores, he will get three ids- one for each. He also sets an expiration date on how long the id is good. So, the perpetrator is generally not going to know which retailer the id he stole is acceptable for the name on the card.

There is another thing you can do to mitigate the identity theft of a credit card. Make sure than any purchase you enact on line is linked to an email followup approval. This means you have to make sure that the thief doesn’t have your email address and password access to your email.

Sounds like a plan.

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