Business news from the Fredericksburg region.
Cards traveled but they didn’t
IN THE PAST month, my wife and I squeezed in trips to a Walmart in Arizona and a grocery store in England despite having a newborn baby, and my parents signed up for two online dating sites after 41 years of marriage.
Or at least that’s what our credit card records showed.
Luckily for my family, our credit card companies all nabbed the fraudulent charges shortly after they were attempted. In all but one case the charges were denied at the point of sale. The one charge that went through, a $71 purchase at an English grocery store, wouldn’t be our responsibility, we were told.
We all have different credit card lenders (Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase and Capital One Bank) and brands (American Express, MasterCard and Visa), and all of the companies were right on top of the fraud. Each company issued us new cards right away.
So to an extent, no harm, no foul.
Still, the incidents were a bit disconcerting, especially since three members of my immediate family were all hit within a couple of weeks. Perhaps the most worrisome part was that in each case
the thief didn’t actually have our physical cards but had somehow replicated and attempted to use them.
Police and credit card companies constantly encounter fraud. J.P. Morgan spokesman Paul Hartwick said his firm employs more than 1,000 people dedicated to fighting credit card fraud. Like other companies, Chase uses sophisticated systems to detect potential fraud. Algorithms help companies determine whether a charge seems out of character, and if one slips through, the customer isn’t responsible.
The companies don’t talk much about the specifics of their fraud-fighting techniques, which is probably a good thing. In our case I bet they caught the fraud based on charges being made in Fredericksburg and Arizona/England at nearly the exact same time. And online dating doesn’t exactly match up with my parents’ typical expenditure.
So what can you do to prevent this kind of thing? Among the advice I got is to secure personal information, be aware of suspicious emails, monitor accounts regularly, shred sensitive documents and check credit reports at least once a year. Also, try not to allow the card to leave your sight, as thieves can carry devices called skimmers that they can use to gain access to card information with a simple swipe.
I will probably never know how my family and I got hit by fraud. But I certainly will now be more aware of the various ways in which it could happen.
Staff reporter Bill Freehling writes this biweekly column on business, personal finance and investing. He can be reached at 540/374-5405 or bfreehling@free lancestar.com.