Last Friday I signed onto my bank account only to discover that someone, not me, was having a spending spree in Los Angeles.
Immediately, I got on the phone with my bank and reported fraud.
The bank informed me that they were aware of the “possibly fraudulent activity,” and had flagged a few charges moments before my call. The bank also told me that they had just denied a purchase at Radio Shack as well as an attempt at a cash withdrawal at an ATM.
The craziest part is that these were not purchases made online. Someone presented a valid looking debit card and made these purchases. As I only have one debit card, and I was holding it, I found this shocking.
Did you know identity theft masterminds could create a new ATM card with all of your information? I didn’t.
I wanted to find out how these criminals could steal my information. I did some online research of my own, and called the fraud department at my bank. It turns out that there are two ways my information could have been stolen:
- ATM skimming: Skimming is the theft of information during a routine transaction. Skimmers can be installed in places like ATMs and gas pumps. Disgruntled employees can also skim your information. Skimmers capture both your card number and your pin.
Do you know what a skimming device looks like? Skimming devices are not easy to spot.
- Online Fraud: Your account information can be stolen online anytime you make a transaction. Talented identity theft criminals can take that information and create a hard-copy debit card.
Protect Yourself From Fraud And Take Control of Your Own Credit.
There are many resources to keep your identity safe. I wish I had known about all of these before my account was compromised. I have taken each of these steps since Friday and you should too.
- Set up alerts via your online banking account to let you know when purchases are made. If your account has been compromised, you’ll know right away.
- Check your balances at least once a day to be sure you have authorized all charges.
- Use cash at places known to have a higher rate of skimming for example, at gas stations and in convenience stores.
- Check with your bank to see if they have debit cards that help you protect your identity. For example, Bank of America has a “safe pass” that provides you with one-time codes for all online purchases.
- Finally, review your credit report regularly and consider credit monitoring. Credit monitoring takes the work off your hands, by patrolling your report and alerting you only when important information changes.
Have you been a victim of identity theft? We’d love to hear your story.