After working a few years in the financial sector, including fraud review, I’ve seen the damage fraudsters can perform within minutes to over months. Months may pass, after they have your information, giving you a false sense of security. Here are a few scenarios consumers may not notice and what you can do to heighten your security.
Monthly statement shows nothing out of the ordinary?
The local thief may live in or visit your community. Humans are creatures of habit, they tend to go to the same restaurants, grocery chains, and gas stations. Some charges may appear not so out of ordinary. If a duplicate card has been made from information obtained off of your card, with a credit card skimmer, thieves could be using them right at the same places.
What to do?
- Change your pin number periodically.
- Ask for a new card if you suspect fraud.
(Some banks may charge a fee for a replacement card or issue a courtesy one.)
- If a system looks suspicious, skip it, and find another way to pay.
- Be predictable with the same amounts of purchases, for example, $30 for gas. Fraud departments look for routines.
Small pre-authorization amounts?
Pre-authorizations or test amounts on cards from new merchant accounts are run to check available funds. Most of the time, these delete after 72 hours. The amount is set by the merchant and normally an even number of up to $100. Once the pre-authorization signal clears, the merchant allows you to continue with your transaction.
What to do?
- Place a daily withdrawal limit through your bank or credit card.
- Notify your bank or card if you are going on vacation or out of town to reduce a fraud flag.
- Check your account activity frequently.
When you notice small purchases on your account, these are considered fraudster test amounts to see if the card or account is still active. Generally, they are online purchases to a fake set up website ranging from a few pennies, odd numbers, or in foreign currency.
What to do?
- Look for a customer service number next to the amount on your statement. Dispute the charge or review what the purchase was for.
- If it was through an online merchant, run a virus scan, clear cache and cookies plus, change your password.
- Call your credit card company to dispute it or ask about filing a chargeback.
Automatic Bill Payer Withdraws
More banks offer bill payer systems, this reduces check fraud, but if you allow a merchant to automatically withdrawal from your account, watch out!. Errors can be made and there is a human on the other end controlling the numbers.
What to do?
- Self control how much and when the money gets withdrawn.
- Periodically print a copy of your bill for accuracy, as online data can be changed quicker. Your home printer usually puts a time and date stamp at the bottom.
- Minimize using merchants’ online payment systems.
- Avoid automatic scheduled withdraws by a merchant or business.
- Understand your bank and credit card fraud systems and alerts.
- Understand how chargebacks work.
- Review your statements often, print occasionally.
- Limit giving multiple cards to family members or associates.
- Change passwords and pin numbers routinely.
- Be predictable with your spending and amounts.
- Provide ID upon using a credit card.
- Secure your mailbox for credit card applications.
- Be cautious of giving sensitive info by email or phone.
- Check your credit report annually through TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.