In the Suburbs: Be warned: ’Tis the season for credit card grinches
It’s Black Friday 2015. Do you know who’s using your credit or debit card? I hope it’s you. If you think I’m being facetious, I’m not. I am the 10-time victim, with my wife, of fraudulent transactions on five credit or debit cards. And frankly, I’m sick of spending hours confirming that transactions are ours or not, answering questions and being inconvenienced by canceled cards that seem to take forever to be replaced.
All I can say, as an associate in a busy retail operation, is that if you are planning on paying for several purchases in numerous places take the extra few minutes to call your credit card company or your bank to alert the fraud department that you will be doing a lot of charging and want them to be aware of any upcoming activity. Believe me, you won’t regret the phone call.
My truly active fraudulent experiences began about three weeks ago when I returned from Chicago on a Saturday afternoon. Following my purchase of movie tickets, dinner at Chipolte and a small grocery purchase, my phone vibrated and it was Bank of America, alerting me to a $77 purchase attempted in New Jersey. That followed a call from Target, telling me that they’d frozen my card after a purchase made in Chicago. Thankfully, I had made that purchase and, after a short interrorgation, the representative was content to reinstate the card and apologize for any inconvenience.
My wife was next. Her bank credit card and the replacement card too were hacked last week. When the new card arrived and my wife called to activate it, she was connected to the fraud department and told that someone in the Philadelphia area had just charged nearly $800 at a furniture manufacturer. Thankfully, the bank didn’t pay it, but they also would not reverse the purchase for five days. I was livid and called the bank Monday, to make a formal complaint to customer service about how poorly this had been handled. They assured me that my wife would receive, at least, a phone call. She’s still waiting by the way.
And I couldn’t even make that complaint until I had responded to a merchant about a small $13 purchase for ongoing Sirius radio service had just been declined. I subsequently learned that my bank was trying unsuccessfully to process the charge for $ 13.50. I also found out from that phone call that a $244 charge at the Food Bazaar in Bridgeport was pending and the fraud department wanted to know if I had authorized it. I hadn’t!
My call to that bank, by the way, came on the heels of another call from American Express last Saturday evening, inquiring about a $70 purchase at a Dollar Store someplace in New Jersey. I assured the creditor that the purchase was fraudulent since I hadn’t even used the card in six weeks. When I was informed that I’d be inconvenienced for at least a week while they sent out a new American Express Card, I said that was inexcusable and I wanted the card sent overnight. I had it in three days.
As a further precaution, I decided to call another of my credit card companies to alert them that my wife and I would be traveling upstate to Groton on Sunday and I would be making a few purchases. They thanked me for being so diligent.
Heard enough? I certainly have. So I called my insurance company, where I have credit monitoring protection, based on my growing paranoia that someone definitely has our personal information and account numbers. The representative was more than understanding and provided me with a great deal of information. In addition, she strongly recommended that we file a police report since some of the charges appeared to be more local.
We plan to do that after our wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at our neighbor’s home.
My goal with this column is not to scare anyone, only to send a wake-up call that from this point until the holiday season ends, be aware of the purchases you’re making and the cards you are using. Let nothing out of your sight and, if you can, take the time to call your banks and credit card companies to alert them that you will be using their card for purchases.
The peace of mind will be immeasureable.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: email@example.com.