About a month ago our credit card number was stolen and the thieves attempted to make a purchase using it in Florida. They were thwarted and we got a new card and all is fine.
Today I got a call from a nice lady at a fraud protection company who told me our BANK CARD number had been stolen, and there were two attempts to use it in Houston. Both times the card was declined, red flags on our account went up, and the card was completely canceled. We'll be getting a new card in the next few days. She did not assume, by the way, that it was stolen...she just said there was suspicious activity and called me to verify it.
In both these instances, the red flags on our accounts were one-time charges to our cards for a dollar or two. It is a strategy thieves use in order to make sure the card they've stolen actually works. Once they're able to use it for that small amount, they go for larger purchases. In the case of Florida, a large grocery store order. In Houston, gasoline.
The whole thing feels very creepy, but Dwayne and I know we haven't done anything irresponsible with our card numbers. Today I asked the lady with fraud protection services if she had any advice for us. She told me the obvious points: don't give your card number over the phone to someone who's called you, don't respond to any email asking for your card number, etc.
The other advice we got in both instances was that restaurant servers could be recording the information from our card when we use it to pay our bill. After all, who knows where they take it when it disappears from our sight while we're finishing our meal? Maybe we should lower our restaurant standards and only go to places where we pay on our way out... Or just pay cash. Now there's a idea.
Anyway, I'm just writing about this so ya'll will be on your guard, too. I hope you also have a credit union or bank who keeps a close eye on these...um...bandits. And you watching your account activity all the time isn't enough.
For your reference, here's some official advice on protecting identity and account theft:
Clark Howard, one of my favorite financial geeks.
Federal Trade Commission.