Credit Card Fraud: Your Single Transaction Alert from …

What a rude awakening and reminder that credit card fraud is alive and well. While checking my email last Sunday, I came across a single transaction alert from my credit card company, an alert I had set up myself.

Every time I or SOMEONE spends above $30.00 on the card, I receive an alert from the company notifying me of the purchase. Frequently I don’t even open the email because I “think” I know what’s in it, since I may have used the card that day.

Well, not so this time. I hadn’t been out of the house on Sunday nor had I used the card to make an online purchase. You can imagine my surprise, when I opened the email and read that I had charged $2024.94 at Bed, Bath & Beyond on 1:30:20 PM EST that day!

A quick call to the credit card company revealed that they had approved the above charge, however declined 2 additional charges for $2011.45 at Home Depot and $1789.34 at Lowes.  The initial charge was made at a store in Colorado and the subsequent charges came in from other states altogether… and I live in Washington State!

The good news for me…

since it was my credit card, I am not responsible for any of the charges. I cut up my old credit card and the credit card number was changed immediately. A new card was sent out and I will receive it within a few days.

The bad news for all of us…

even while I am not responsible for any charges, we consumers will end up paying for this fraud in the form of higher prices and/or additional charges.

A few years back, I had a similar scare, but that time it involved my debit card. Someone had purchased airline tickets in London and presumably someone else placed an order for a Dell laptop here in Washington State.

Since I had checked my account that particular morning, I noticed the pending charges and was able to get the laptop purchase cancelled. Amazingly enough this did not happen because of my local bank.

No, I had to call Dell myself and tell them that this was not my purchase and to please cancel it. Had the order been completed and shipped already, I would have had $1700 less in my bank account until an investigation had been completed.

Up to this time I did not realize (beyond the obvious) that credit cards and debit cards were two different animals altogether. I did not know that I had very little protection with my debit card as compared to the credit card. While most, if not all, credit cards protect you against fraudulent charges, not all debit cards are handled the same.

With a credit card, the fraudulent charge is either removed right away or you are not responsible for the charge while it is under investigation.

With a debit card however, money comes out of your account right away and in essence you are “out the money” until an investigation is completed. Today, debit cards may be handled differently and it may vary depending on who issues the card.

The point I am trying to make… it benefits all of us to know what will happen in the case of fraud and who will be responsible for any fraudulent charges on either credit or debit card.

While I think of myself as very careful in how I handle my credit and debit cards, I still have been affected by credit card fraud. I only use secured wireless connections when making online purchases and don’t enter my card number unless I know and trust the merchant. I no longer use a debit card at all when making online purchases and only use a credit card because of the added protection.

When I shop offline however I use both debit card and credit card. However I’m thinking of switching to using credit cards exclusively or finding a debit card that offers at least some protection against fraud.

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