Fraud!

No, I’m not talking about trash contracts, the Chicago Bears, or Bill Jefferson.  I’m the victim of an identity theft!

“I never thought it would happen to me,” but this isn’t as serious as most people’s.  I got damn lucky (I hope).  Since it’s approaching the middle of the month, that’s about when we start running out of money, so logged onto our checking account to see how close we were, and I found $1100 of charges to Chevron, Dillard’s, and Target, all in…wait for it…Houston!  Lucky for me, they were all from the day before, and I was able to call the bank immediately and block the card.

I’m curious as hell to know how it happened.  They were all from my card (E and I share an account but have different card #s), which I haven’t lost.  But according to the woman on the phone, they were all paid in person, rather than online (which makes sense especially for the Chevron one).  So did they make a fake card with my number?

I’d love to hear any ideas about what happened.  Right now, my money’s on this being a computer glitch that billed my account instead of theirs, but maybe I’m being naive.  The bank said they’d start an investigation and shortly will credit my account, but I’ll have to file paperwork to keep the refund.  I’ll let all two of my readers know if I hear anything more interesting about it.

If it’s a theft, I want to hear whether they get busted.   After I was arm-robbed delivering pizza in college, for years I got updates on the perp, but I doubt my bank will be as forthcoming to satisfy my curiosity (not that I was curious about the robber, but this one intrigues me).

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6 Responses to Fraud!

  1. Jedd says:

    Here’s how it works. Somewhere, where you used your card, someone kept the number. Or someone else picked up a discarded receipt. Or they picked up a bill from your trash. In any of several ways, someone found out your card number and exp. date. Then they passed this information on. “Carders” trade this information left and right. Someone in Houston got your digits, made a fake card, and went a-swiping.

    There’s plenty of variations to the scenario, but that’s the most basic one. The machines to read and write on the card’s mag strip are readily available. How many times have you used your card, and had the clerk check the swiped digits against the card, or ask for your license? Sure, it happens sometimes, particularly for high dollar purchases. But for a high volume place like Dillards? An easy score. A day of carding, either for personal use, “shopping” for an “order” that someone placed, or quick resale.

  2. hammhawk says:

    Thanks for the scoop, Jedd. Any chance they’ll be busted trying to use it now that I’ve reported it? Anything I can do to keep it from happening again?

    I’ll admit, I’m usually pretty careless, figuring that someone who wants my info could get it if they wanted it (and, I guess, I just thought the odds were against it happening to me). In this case, the bank seems to be cooperating (they’ve already credited my account, pending my signing the paperwork), but I figure if it happens regularly, they start to be less forgiving.

  3. […] found that somewhat astonishing. Then I heard of HammHawk’s identity theft. So to prove that bad news comes and threes, I thought I’d whine about my little story of […]

  4. Jedd says:

    Carders getting busted? We’re talking about an interstate crime here, which is generally the province of the FBI. The Feds generally don’t get excited about “white collar” economic crimes that are below a certain threshold. Say, $50,000 or more. So I would say the chances of the FBI taking an interest in your case are pretty close to zero. Expecting the NOPD and Houston PD to cooperate and solve a crime like this is also a non-starter.

    In general, the banks accept this kind of low-level fraud as part of the cost of doing business. Investigating and prosecuting one of these crimes takes a lot of effort. If you really want to catch the assholes, you’d have to do it yourself. (Google the subject and you’ll find some interesting stories of people who did just that.)

    As for the carders themselves, they’re very aware of the facts mentioned above. If they know what they’re doing, they’re most likely using a fake card for one day only. Then on to the next number. They’re well aware that the account will be flagged pretty quickly, but in the lag time, they can get $1,100 worth of stuff. If they’re dumb and keep using it, they might get caught. The most likely scenario is someone getting suspicious, calling the cops, etc. But that’s a slim possibility.

    As for the bank doing the right thing, most cardholder agreements state that if you notify them within 48 hours, your maximum liability is $50. Most banks don’t even bother with charging you the $50. Think about it this way. Let’s say someone is ripped off like you, and the bank goes after them for the full $1,100. Let’s say you go to the newspapers. It’s a story every reporter loves: big bad bank goes after innocent crime victim. Probably worth hundreds of thousand in negative publicity for the bank. You do the math.

  5. Jedd says:

    PS. Fix your clock! Your site is apparently set at GMT, you need to change it to -0600 (central time) for the comment timestamps to be correct. Check the wordpress preferences.

  6. […] did our annual drink-&-shop day on Magazine with our friend Stacy, and I told her all about our card theft problem.  Well, the next morning, she goes to get some cash, and her account is bone dry.  […]

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