Susan Tompor: Time to get ‘a little paranoid’ after credit, debit card breaches
Nick Ut, Associated Press
Mike Rosinski, 51, doesn’t really know how a string of fraudulent charges ranging from as little as $3.19 for some odd outfit in Missouri to $434.10 at a Fry’s Electronics in another state ended up hitting his Visa credit card in mid-April.
Maybe, he speculated that it was when a parking lot attendant took his credit card, claimed it wasn’t going through and then said he could park for free? Maybe it was somehow related to getting hacked in the Target incident late in 2013, but that seems doubtful, as he was already issued a new card after that one.
Either way, Rosinski, who lives in Hartland, Mich., says he thinks consumers really need to pay attention to their statements and charges. He checks his balances regularly, but his wife got an automated call from the card issuer about the suspect activity. He followed up directly with the card issuer, who yes, is going to send him yet another new credit card number.
Like many consumers who just don’t want to deal with any more of the hassles of getting a new card number, Rosinski just wishes more could be done to stop the crooks before they make those charges. Sure, he’s pleased that the issuer had a system to spot the fraud quickly, but what about some added security to put a stop to the hacking?
Are we seeing more fraud charges, or are we simply more aware that fraudsters are working overtime to get our credit card or debit card information? It could be a little bit of both, experts say. Fraud might be on the rise in part lately because there have been so many significant security breaches, said Adam Levin, chairman and cofounder of Identity Theft 911.
A security breach took place at Michaels Stores and its subsidiary Aaron Brothers. The breach occurred between May 8, 2013, and Jan. 27, 2014, at Michaels Stores and may have hit 2.6 million consumers or 7 percent of transactions during that time. At Aaron Brothers, the breach took place between June 26, 2013, and Feb. 27, 2014, and may have hit 400,000 consumers.
Industry experts say there are many ways someone’s card information can be compromised — ranging from a rogue employee using a skimming device, to a consumer responding to phishing emails, to malware installed at a point-of-sale system at a store. Cyber-attacks can be very sophisticated and criminals often are out of the country.
Some other scams involve what’s known as “micropayment fraud schemes” that charge your card repeatedly for small amounts for rogue Internet pharmacies, fake anti-virus software, jewelry or handbag buying clubs, and online gambling.
The breaches have spurred a push for anti-fraud technology and expanded use of microchip cards that offer more security than magnetic stripes. Target said that next year it will issue chip-and-pin cards for its Redcard branded credit and debit cards.
Right now, though, the flurry of breaches and anecdotal information on fraudulent charges should make everyone more cautious and more willing to spend time going online daily or weekly to track charges on an account.
“The most important action a consumer can do is monitor their account closely,” said Teresa Thornton, senior vice president and director of fraud services for Comerica Bank.
One relative, who does read his bills, told me about a $49.77 charge that was made on his account in Mexico in April. Was it connected, perhaps, to another scam a month earlier when he spotted a fraudulent $11.18 charge from a so-called “BLS WebLearn” on his credit card statement?
My husband’s uncle immediately alerted his credit card issuer about the $11.18 charge and he was told not to pay it. But a new card wasn’t issued right then. Maybe one should have been to prevent the later fraud charges. Sometimes the fraudsters start out with small charges to check if a number is “live” and can be used to make bigger purchases. Or the con artists keep making more fake small charges just to keep the scam going.
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