Hopefully There Is Coal For The Person That Stole My Credit Card Info

Talk about funny timing.  On Monday night, I was talking to my dad and he was telling me about someone he knew that had their credit card info taken, and how it had happened multiple times. He wondered how that happened to them.

Wednesday morning, not more than 36 hours later, I am going through my emails when I spotted one from Citi that instantly got my attention as the subject line was “Fraud Alert – Suspicious Activity Detected”

Yikes.  Let’s say that I skipped right over to that one.

I’ve had a couple of instances where I got an e-mail or a call about activity, but never was there a problem and I was able to confirm the transactions.

As soon as I opened the e-mail and looked at the lists, I could tell that these were definitely not charges I made.

The first thing I did was log into my account to make sure that this was real, and wasn’t a phishing attempt of some sort, but it turns out these were right.

I saw five transactions that had gone through on Tuesday, all for very small amounts, between $8 – $20, and all appeared to be at gas stations.  The charges were made locally, within about 25 miles from my house.

mb-201402creditcard400I checked to make sure that the card was in my wallet.  It was.  So someone had obtained my info another way (and for readers who might remember a recent post, I did have a card that I lost and was sent back to me, but this was not tied to that at all, as that was a completely different card).  I instantly called Citi and let them know that their alert system worked.  They closed that card and started the process to move everything to a new card, which I’ll receive in a few days.

I checked all of our other credit and banking accounts and there were no other problems.

Now I’m just trying to figure out how they got the information.  I can only think of a couple of ways:

  1. A skimming device – Maybe I was the victim of a skimming device placed on a credit card reader.  I am pretty sure that a good portion of these types of things usually happen at either gas stations or ATMs, and I never use this card for gas nor at an ATM, but who knows.
  2. A dishonest employee – Who knows, maybe an employee somewhere that I used the card somehow copied or obtained the numbers and was able to manufacture a different card or sell the info to someone else.
  3. A former breach – There have been reports of breaches at various retail locations.  It’s quite possible that at one point I used the card somewhere and the info was taken but never used until now.  The fact that the fraudulent transactions happened locally, though, makes me think this was something on a smaller scale.

The bottom line is that I’ll probably never really know.

It’s interesting that the transactions were all so small.  As I said, there were five transactions altogether, and I don’t think it totaled more than $30.  I’m wondering if they were using these to test the card and see if anybody ‘noticed’ before trying to move to something bigger.

Pretty scary stuff.

In either case, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out on all of our cards, and will be monitoring our credit info to make sure nothing looks out of the ordinary.  You never know.

It could have been a lot worse, but it’s still pretty scary stuff when it all comes down to it!

Readers, have you been a victim of identify theft or fraud?  How were you able to handle it?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Why I Didn’t Report My Lost Credit Card

  1. Several weeks ago, we went to the last of our country concerts for the year, as we went to see Luke Bryan in downtown Detroit.  It was a great show and we had a great time.  After we were done, we went to a couple of nearby bars to finish off the celebration, and capped it off with an Uber ride home.

All in all, it was a great night, and I thought that was the end of it.

But, it wasn’t.

The next day, we were running some errands and the first stop we had to make was to get gas.

We use our Costco American Express card to get gas, as it provides 3% cash back.

I went to get it out of my wallet, and realized that it wasn’t there.

Yikes.

I immediately thought back to the previous night and had an idea of what had happened.

See, we also use the card at restaurants because it offers 2% cash back for dining purchases.  Knowing that we’d gone out the previous night, I know I had likely used it then.

Since my wife was there, I grabbed her card to complete the gas purchase, and while the gas was pumping, I logged into my American Express account to take a look at all my activity.  It was pretty cool to see that the gas purchase was already noted as in progress.  But, it also showed that the last time I’d used my card was the previous night at one of the bars.

mb-2015-02-oopsThinking about the way it all went down, I remember buying a round of drinks at the bar, and carrying it back to our table.  There were four of us, so I had to make two trips.  I specifically remembered having to grab the receipt and the card from the bartender, and carry it along with the first two drinks, then rush back to grab the other two.

I was pretty sure that I’d set the card down on the table along with the receipt, and then likely left it there.

I decided not to call American Express right away, since no activity had gone on the card.  I did keep checking every so often and no activity was showing up.

Later, after we got home, I called down to the bar.  The first call did not go through to anybody, even though I was pretty sure they were open.  I left a message and never got a call back.

I called back a little while later and got a hold of someone that offered to check, but didn’t really instill the level of confidence that I was looking for.  So, when he told me that he couldn’t find it, I accepted it but wasn’t really all that sure that I was ready to end the fight.

Now, I could have easily called American Express and reported the card as missing, and gotten a new card issued with a new number, but I chose to wait it out, and it had to do with a reason that I’m pretty sure most of you wouldn’t guess.

It was because of our planned trip to Disney World.

The American Express card had been used to pay for just about every aspect of our trip.  It was also linked to our Magic Bands, which we already had in our possession.  Those are little bands that you were that have a chip that basically gets you everything that you need from accessing the park to your hotel to including your payment.

We also had booked everything except our flight with the card.

In short, we wanted to avoid the hassle of things having to be all changed around.

So, I continued to check my account information, and decided to call back the next day.  This time, I spoke to the manager, and she went to look for it and reported that…they had found the card!

They offered to send it to me, and within a couple days, I had the card back in my possession.

Was it risky?  Sure.  Would I have taken the risk had I not had an inkling of where the card was as soon as I found it wasn’t in my wallet, or had I not had access to check the card activity at a moment’s notice?  No way.  Would I have just taken the simple method and gotten a replacement card had we not had the Disney association?  I probably would have.

In the end, it was a little extra stress and it all worked out.  I know I got lucky in that someone found the card and did the right thing.  It could have gone a lot of other different ways, but I’m glad it didn’t.

Readers, what do you think of the risk that I took?  Should I have cancelled the card the moment I realized it was missing or was my hunch and the availability of technology a proper mitigation in the short term?  What would you have done?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Budgetary Demands Should Conquer Other Considerations

Everyone enjoys spending money. Unfortunately not many are particularly good at following a budget to keep their finances in good order. The level of credit card debt in the USA suggests that there are plenty of people spending on a regular basis without actually paying off the bill in full. Once a balance is established it incurs a high level of interest. Interest is added at the end of each month so something that might be a bargain purchase bought on credit might ultimately end up being very costly indeed.

The recession resulted in an increase in consumer debt. The wise have paid off their debts as a matter of priority. Now it’s your turn. If you write down your regular income and expenditure it will put your financial position down in front of you.  Your credit card debt and any debt on store cards will be costing you a significant amount of interest each month.

Credit Card Discipline

Before anything else you should make a decision to stop using your credit card; you are obviously living beyond your means. If at a later date when you have reduced the balance to zero you should only use your card again for convenience and if you can pay the full bill when requested. In an absolute emergency you can use the card but you must understand the consequences of doing that.  Don’t even carry it with you perhaps?

The figures in front of you tell your story. The expensive debt should be cleared as a priority. There are online lenders who will look sympathetically at applicants who can prove they have a regular income and can afford the instalment payments each month until the borrowings are paid off completely. Certainly the interest applied to such realistic loans is at a much lower rate than that used by credit card companies.

The Cost of Debt

You need to understand your debt and what it is costing you. Some people psychologically address the smaller amounts first; instead of 6 creditors they are happy to reduce it to 5 and 4, in other words numerically rather than by interest rate. There is some validity in that approach if it increases satisfaction but also determination. If the consolidation loan described above can clear all debts other than mortgage which is in an altogether different category then all well and good.

There are occasions when you can negotiate rates. If a creditors feels you are liable to default he or she make accept some form of negotiation. If that is a means of reducing your core debt then that is certainly worth the approach.

Sacrifice

You may be thinking this has all the signs of major sacrifice. No one is claiming that there is np pain in clearing your debts but you must ask yourself a question. If you are earning a regular monthly income why is it that you are facing mb-2015-03-checkbookfinancial stress every day? The answer may be a combination of things ranging from misfortune to complacency and simple extravagance, living beyond your means. The reality is that unless you address the problem things will only get worse. Debt simply does not vanish and the day will come when you will be completely out of your depth with little or no escape route.

You show investigate whether you can spend less by getting more competitive insurance quotes and utility providers. It is easy just to continue with existing contracts but often there are cheaper options available. It seems a fairly common practice to produce special offers to attract new business without offering those deals to existing clients. If you are financial trouble you should not dismiss trying to get yourself better deals. The only cost is your time.

Perhaps you will need to make some economies in your day to day life; reducing your social budget may be a necessity? If your debts are growing there will be little choice. The days when you might recall how you enjoyed spending money can recede very quickly when the reality of your finances hit home. Discipline must replace any form of complacency. If you have a regular job, you can repair your financial situation but the longer you leave it the more difficult it will be.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

7 Ways To Improve Your Credit Score

Nobody knows the exact methods by which your credit score is calculated, but you should definitely understand the importance of having a good score, and some methods which will help you improve your credit score.

Here are 7 Ways To Improve Your Credit Score

  1. Pay on time.  Every time – The biggest knock on a credit score is late or missed payments.  While you can’t erase the sins of the past, you can make sure that moving forward you prove your credit worthiness by paying every bill on time.
  2. Reduce the number of open debts – It’s been thought that, all things equal, the number of debts you have can adversely affect your limit. For example, if you have $4,000 in credit card debt, you might have a lower score if you have this spread across eight cards versus consolidating the debt down to one or two cards.
  3. Keep open available credit – One thing that likely factors into your credit score is how much of your available credit you have in use.  Again, using the $4,000 credit card balance, mb-201402creditcard400you might find yourself with a lower score if your overall limit is $5,000 versus if it’s $10,000.  Not to say that you should open up new cards to increase your limit, but instead of closing cards and lowering your overall limit, you can just stop using them.
  4. Understand different types of credit – A $4,000 auto loan may have a different impact on your credit score than $4,000 in credit card debt.  A mix of different types of debts is likely more favorable than just having one type of debt.  Again, not advising that you run out and open more types of credit, but understanding the potential impact, especially before potentially taking on a new loan, is very important.
  5. Keep aged credit – Two people with identical credit situations can find themselves with vastly different credit scores simply depending on the age of their credit.  If your oldest credit card was taken out just a year ago, you will likely have a lower score someone else whose oldest card was issued ten years ago, all other things equal.  Before you start closing cards, again, take this into consideration.
  6. Know that stability counts – Many people open and close credit cards to take advantage of different reward programs.  A few years ago, it was common to have reward cards available that would give you 5% or more back on your purchases, but the catch was that this was just a teaser, and the rewards would decline after a few months.  People would simply move on once the premium rewards disappeared in order to continue to maximize their overall rewards.  This can add up to big bucks in rewards but this will have a negative impact on your score.  If you already have a top score, this will likely be negligible, but for someone with an average score, this could actually do more harm than good.  Weigh not just the reward benefits, but also the long term potential costs.
  7. Keep working hard – If you have a 600 credit score, it’s not going to jump up to 800 overnight.  But, it can be done as long as you work hard and understand that time is on your side.  While there are many offers out there that claim to improve your credit score overnight, the best and most stable method is to make solid choices as noted above and do so over time.  That will outlast any gimmick!

Readers, what have you done that’s improved your credit score? Have you found any methods to work against you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.