Thursday, September 20, 2018

Andrew Dowd

Getting good at cutting up cards

  • Credit-card-theft

    MGN Online

Of the three charge cards in my wallet, only one made it to its ripe old expiration date.

I snipped the other two into tiny bits after calls from my financial institution warned me that my info had been compromised by financial data thieves.

The latest was my debit card, which I’d unknowingly used at one of the RCU ATMs that had skimming devices attached to them for a few hours before the Eau Claire credit union found them.

RCU announced on April 3 that its affected cardholders were notified of the problem, as well as financial institutions of other debit cards used at the ATMs where the devices were found.

Sure enough, as two of my coworkers were chatting about the skimmers, I got a call from the company that issued my debit card. Indeed, I’d used one of the tainted ATMs and my card had to be retired to prevent the risk of robbers taking money or making charges on my checking account.

Earlier this week, I asked Bridget Coit, public information officer at the Eau Claire Police Department, for any updates she could share on the investigation into the RCU skimmers. Authorities believe they were used by an organized group of thieves with ties to Eastern Europe that have been trekking across the U.S. After installing their gadgets in the Chippewa Valley, they quickly moved onto southern Wisconsin, then the Kansas City area and then to the southwest U.S. As of last week, multiple suspects had been recorded using the stolen cards — but not identified — and there hadn’t been arrests. The case remains open for Eau Claire police and other agencies.

Other thefts

I didn’t see any fraudulent charges on that debit card account, but I can’t say the same about my credit card, which was stolen online in February.

Somebody attempted to buy multiple copies of a “Star Wars” video game with my card info, while I still sleeping on one Saturday morning.

Thankfully my credit card company was vigilant and had their anti-fraud service call me as the thief was making transactions. After verifying the anti-fraud person was not themselves a fraudster, I had to dissect that card, too.

And that wasn’t my first time, either.

Someone in South Africa had managed to steal my credit card info years ago. That was a strange call to get. The anti-fraud service even told me in real-time where the person was using my card to buy a movie ticket and groceries in a city I’d never heard of, couldn’t spell or even pronounce.

It’s an unnerving feeling — knowing that some thief who could be anywhere in the world was able to get my info and randomly decided to use it.

After each incident, I paid extra attention to my credit card statements to make sure no new fraudulent charges showed up and the ones that did get through were reversed.

What to do?

Sure, as consumers we need to be careful with our cards.

After the RCU skimming incident, I’m going to use ATMs in locations where they’re constantly monitored so a thief would have to be incredibly bold or stupid to futz with it.

I seldom buy things online, and when I do it’s usually through Amazon or another company with a good reputation.

In my experiences, financial institutions have been responsive. Those I do business with told me right away about security problems and fixed them.

Local police do what they can when their residents are targeted, but these crimes cross state and even national borders.

So, what to do?

More or less, it feels like a crime that we’ll just have to live with as we use plastic to buy so much these days.

But it would be nice to hear more from federal officials and lawmakers on what’s they’re doing to deter and combat identity theft, which is widely known to be a rapidly growing type of crime.

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