Skinny Up Your Wallet

Consider this my PSA to all of you who read – take note this could happen to you too!

This week I was a victim of credit card fraud.  My card is still in my wallet – never lost or left my wallet – and my wallet has remained in my procession.  It’s not even a card I use often.  Monday at 8am I received a message from my credit card company about suspicious activity on the card the day before – Sunday. I knew I had not used the card that day.  In 24 hours – approximately $1000 in video games and video game equipment was charged to my card.  A new account on was also opened in my name.

The good news – mastercard is handling all of this and Amazon was on it too – calling to inquire about my duplicate accounts and shutting down the new one.  For my credit card – crooks start with a small purchase – a dollar or so – to test the card.  Once it works – the big spends begin.

The bad news – my card has been canceled.  Several items I had set up to auto-pay on this card will need to be switched to another card.  I have also heard that once your card has been compromised once you are at a high risk/on high alert – meaning you are much more like to have your card declined in the future.  In short – going on vacation to another state and trying to use this card or making a large purchase will most likely send up a red flag and cause the card to be shut down again.

So if you are careful how does this happen? There are several new ways that folks have figured out to get your info.  It’s next to impossible in some cases to know your information has been comprised. Here are a few of the ways:

1.  Hackers can hack into an online site stealing information for anyone who’s purchased with a credit card from that sight.  You would have no way of knowing this happened if the company was not aware of the issue.

2. Skimmers- these are small devices that crooks fit over top of gas and ATM card swipes.  When you swipe your card – your purchase/transaction goes through but the skimmer grabs your info too!  The skimmers are just slightly thicker than the regular card swipe and may not be that obvious.

3. Scanners – there is a new device out that is about the size of a cell phone that can read your credit card in your wallet or purse without you knowing.  You may be standing next to someone as they are stealing your info and you will not know!!

These folks are crafty and constantly coming up with new scams – if only they would use their skills for good not evil- imagine what great things could be done!

I’m not sure what happened with my card but assume it was one of the above.  So what can one do?

Here are a few tips to hopefully keep you a bit safer this holiday season:

1. Check your statements and recent purchase history online often.  If you notice something that does not look familiar – even a small, small charge – call your credit card company and ask for more information.

2. Skinny up your wallet. Don’t carry cards you don’t use often everywhere you go.  In my wallet I had several store cards that I only use when I shop at those stores.  Those cards could remain safely at home and only come with me when I know I am going to Pier 1 for example.

3. Cancel cards you don’t use. I’m guilty of opening a card to save 10% if I am making a larger purchase.  I generally only use 1 or 2 credit cards – all those store cards could be officially closed saving me from potential risk.  Remember – if Pier 1 had their info hacked and I still have an open card that I never use… I could be a victim and not notice for some time.  Call the number on the back of cards you don’t use and ask to have them officially closed.  If you aren’t sure – ask the company if you have any other cards open. Sometimes when a program changes – you may receive a new card and the old card could remain open and active.  An example of this- I had an Loft credit card that was changed to an Ann Taylor credit card by the company three years ago.  Unbeknownst to me – the Loft card was still considered open!

While there are some things you won’t have any control of – there are some you do.  Having a fat wallet may not be such a good idea these days! Skinny up your wallet and protect yourself.

Good luck – be alert – and happy shopping!

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