Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Credit card woes

Well, it’s happened again.

An email arrived telling me my Discover Card statement was available to view, so I clicked the link, logged in, and scanned down the list of purchases.

Okay, there’s gas . . . gas . . . more gas . . . green fees at that out-of-town course we played in April . . . my internet service provider. . . Wait — Lowes? Oh, yeah, that was those plastic shutters Carol bought. There’s WalMart . . . Netflix . . . and, huh, Best Buy? I don’t remember . . . Oh! The battery UPS for my new computer after a brief power blip caused it some problems. There’s gas . . . gas . . . What’s this? “Macy’s West,” in Mason, Ohio? $150.00?

(I shouted to the other room.) Hey, Carol! Did you order something from Macy’s West in Mason Ohio on April 24? For $150.00? Yeah, Macy’s West. No? Me neither, but it’s on our Discover bill. Yeah, right here. See?

Oh, sh*t. Right below it is ANOTHER charge for ANOTHER $150.00 at “Bloomingdales.com.” It’s also in Mason, Ohio!

A quick scan down the rest of the charges revealed nothing else I couldn’t identify. I picked up the phone and dialed 1-800-DISCOVER. The nice lady at their fraud department assured me that I would not be responsible for the charges, and that Discover would investigate. Yes, my wife and I both still had our cards so they had not been stolen.

She told us that likely someone had noted our account number and expiration date when we’d made a legitimate purchase. She said they’d probably also noted the 3-digit security number on the back of the card. Given the exact amount of the charges ($150.00 – a nice round number!) her opinion was the person had bought gift cards. They can be used anonymously or even sold at a discount to further “launder” the stolen money. She would suspend our account immediately, and overnight new cards to us with a new account number.

Great! That means I have to notify my ISP, Netflix, the local newspaper and other merchants to STOP charging my monthly bill to that old Discover Card number, and start using a new one.

Inevitably I’ll forget somebody and get hit with a late charge or at best a “past due” notice.

I know—I’d be better off not using the charge cards for so many things. But I pay off the entire balance every month, so there are no interest charges. And it’s convenient to put as many “bills” as possible on one monthly invoice. Plus with Discover I get “cash back,” which is like a small discount.

Is this convenience counterbalanced by the INconvenience I’m experiencing now, when someone is dishonest? Maybe. Am I the victim of “identity theft?” Statistically yes, but with minimal consequences. Will I keep doing things the way I have been? Probably. I’m a creature of habit.

And unless this sort of thing starts happening more than once every 8-10 years, I guess it’s not THAT inconvenient.

Still . . .


Karyn Lyndon said...

You are smart to avoid interest...

Re: Redrum. It's from The Shining (Stephen King). It's a riddle. See if you can figure it out. The clue is the mirror.

kenju said...

OUCH! That is the reason I no longer use universal credit cards, especially on the computer!

lastAutumn said...

Maybe you had a virus on you computer which stole your card number and security number... As for me,I cancelled all my cards except Chase Platinum Visa and use it very occasionally. Maybe, you'd better cancel your cards, too, to use cash and 1 card for emergencies instead?

jan said...

I'm a volunteer with our local police dept. and the High Tech Crimes Division detective told us that they have trouble getting credit card companies to prosecute for "small" (to them) amounts of money. They would rather count it as the cost of doing business which means they pass the costs on to us.

I'm a credit card junkie anyway and the convenience is still worth it for me.

Anonymous said...

Knock on wood. I haven't run into that problem...yet.

Christina said...

I had a similar inconvenience (minus the identity theft) when i lost my VISA debit card. Which I use to pay for EVERYTHING! Most purchases as well as most bills go on this card. Aaaaaaaghh!

Oh, and I know the "redrum" thing.

Duke_of_Earle said...

Oh, as in, "?etorw ehs ,redruM"

Monica said...

That happened to me and my bank discovered someone had hacked into the terminal of one of my automated payments and piggybacked on them.

I was grateful that they handled it though mine wasn't overnighted lol. Still they saved me in the long run.

Anonymous said...

You can always shop for things online and use "secure online account numbers" with your Discover Card--basically each place you shop at gets it's own credit card number good for about a year. So someone can't steal it online from Macy's for instance and use it at Bloomies.

It seems sorta complicated to me--but I know people who do it all the time cause they buy online a lot.