Dealing with Credit Card Fraud

I am not here to tell you how to avoid fraud in the first place because those articles are plentiful. But, no matter how careful you are, you are going to encounter fraud. I think I have had fraudulent changes levied against me 4 times now. In every case, the credit card caught it immediately, called me, and deactivated the card, and sent me a new card with a new account number. I was never out any money.

However, I do have a half dozen or so automated payments post to my credit card every month, AT&T, State Farm, Duke Energy, etc. The fraud is not coming from these places, but when I am forced to get a new card, I have to go update all the automated payments. Worse, if the deactivation happened on the day one of these payments was supposed to post, it could cause bigger problems. So, here is what I did:

I use 2 credit cards, from different banks. I have a credit card from Citibank that is my every day card, which I call my “carry card” because it is carried in my wallet. This is the one that will get hit with fraud because it is the one that is out of sight when I give it to the waitress, used on a website, or used in a gas pump outfitted with a skimmer. But, if that card gets cut off, no big deal. The existing charges still stand, and a new card usually comes in a couple days.

The second card I call my “home card” because it never leaves the house. For this one, I use a card from Chase. I only use it for recurring transactions with trusted vendors. I have NEVER had fraud on that card.

So, what about the 3 day period while waiting for the new card. Ah, then it is important to have a 3rd card that never gets used, but is also carried. I call this my backup card. I think I have a Cabela’s Rewards card for this one. It is important to use this card once a while just to keep it active. I usually buy gas or something every 9 months or so, just to keep the card active.

I pay my credit cards in full every month. That means I always have 2 credit card payments to make, and 3 that one month when I use my backup card. One thing you can do is either stagger the due dates so you spread the payments out over the month, or maybe align the payment dates so you only have to pay bills once a month, the choice is yours, but credit card companies will usually let you change your billing cycle date, just ask.

If you don’t pay your cards in full, then you should ONLY carry a balance on your carry card. Your home card should have only have relative steady monthly charges. If you don’t have the cash flow coming in to cover your normal monthly expenditures, then fraud is not your primary concern, you need to learn how to budget.

The other thing I do, is not have all my cards with the same bank. I haven’t heard of this, but it would be possible for Chase (for example) to have a server meltdown and temporarily stop processing cards, so having your carry card and backup card at the same bank is not a good idea. Personally, I have had a good experience with both Citibank and Chase, and their cash back rewards cards are both excellent, so those are the two primary cards I use. My backup card is from a smaller institution, and maybe even my local bank or credit union. I do prefer to have a card associated with one of the little guys just as a little extra security.


Condition White

It was a Sunday afternoon. I had just finished everything on my todo list and was feeling fantastic. While I pondered what to do with the rest of my evening, and I got a private message. Excited at what that message might be, I eagerly went to check it.

It was from John, one of the co-hosts of the Polite Society podcast. I have never met him in person, but you pick up bits and pieces about them from the podcast, and so I have great respect for him (and all of the co-hosts for that matter). John and I have had some discussions both publicly on Facebook, and in PM’s, so getting a message from his was not unexpected.

The message was Photo_3047.svg. John had been talking about a rifle that was up for auction that styled like a ’57 Chevy. I know John is a rifle guy, and figured he bought something like that. Without hesitation, I clicked on the link, not even thinking. what is an .svg file? (Red Flag)  A message popped up asking if I wanted to open the link in internet explorer (Red Flag). Sure, I clicked, wanting to see this picture. IE opens, and I see some .html address pop up in the address bar, and I immediately knew what happened. It wasn’t a photo at all, but a link to some malicious site. It appears my virus software protected me, maybe.

Furthermore, I had seen at least 2 Facebook posts from High School classmates with something about “If you get a picture from me, don’t click on it, it’s a virus, or I have been hacked.” You can’t get a virus from a picture and that is not what hacking means. But, I got so caught up being a Grammar Nazi, I completely missed the message that something was going on, on Facebook with pictures and malicious content (big freaking, glowing, waving, red flag)

OK, so, now I am upset with myself. I am a computer guy, and a self-defense guy. I don’t get fooled by these things. I just don’t. But, I just did. I am now seething with anger, not a John (I know this wasn’t something he did maliciously), but at myself. I felt safe on Facebook and let my guard down. I was in condition white. I would have never clicked on a link in an e-mail or a popup on the regular internet.

And, then I realized, this was a metaphor for life. I move though life in condition yellow, always aware of my surroundings. And, where I can legally, I always carry a gun, you know, just in case. The truth of the matter is, the more aware of your surroundings you are, the less likely you will ever need the gun, because you will see trouble developing in plenty of time, and you can simply avoid it. But, some people I talk to about concealed carry, I ask if they carry a gun every day. They reply, “No, only if I feel I need to.” They are in condition white, they feel safe, and so they don’t look for trouble.

But, that is what bit me. I know better. But, I felt safe, and I let my guard down.