Identity theft can victimize anyone

We’ve talked a lot in this column about the ever-growing problems of identity theft and scams. This includes making sure you don’t share personal information, like your social security number and driver’s license number; be diligent in carefully reviewing all of your financial statements; and periodically check your credit reports.

Last week I was the victim of some form of identity theft when someone attempted to charge something to my Visa card account.

Luckily, Bank of America’s fraud department reported the $ 307 payment attempt to the Nike Store, put it on hold, and contacted me. Here’s game by game, and some thoughts and tips.

At 12:30 p.m. on a Friday, there was a message on my answering machine, allegedly from the Bank of America fraud department, indicating that there was a questionable charge on my Visa card. He requested that I call back, and he provided a call back number, which was not the number on the back of my card, and a code. I called this number on my card knowing it was a valid bank number, not a “fraudster”. The rep confirmed that he called me, and later admitted that it was okay, and perhaps best practice, to call a number that you know is actually a bank number.

The debit was declined, the card account canceled, and the rep said he would send me a new card that I would receive within seven to 10 days.

I started telling the rep my financial education background and that I only have one card, something that I tell the students that is all they will need. Their first question is: what if I lose my card or if it is compromised? I told him I was explaining that banks can make you one overnight under these circumstances, and if they can’t live for a day or two with their bank’s money, they have bigger financial problems. than losing their credit card. So I asked if the bank could prove me right and overnight a new card, which it did.

I had a lot of errands to do that day, so I went to my bank and took more money than usual, and moved on with my life until my new card. come. No problem for me as I also teach that I would never use my card if I couldn’t go to the bank and get the money for this charge at that exact moment in my savings or checking account .

Here are some additional thoughts I have on that experience. Firstly, since I use a lot of cash, the charges on my credit card are very repetitive and, for the most part, at the same large retailers, so the algorithms that banks use to detect red flag charges must be quite simple for My account.

Second, if I have to incur a significant charge, either at another retailer or for a very large amount, I will call my bank and alert them, as I will if I travel outside the region.

Third, having a credit card makes it easier to review my statement each month for chargers that I may not have done, and I can’t imagine having to review four or more statements for different cards each. month.

Fourth, I am fortunate to have significant availability on my one card, which allows me to have only one card.

Finally, due to my usage patterns, I have an idea of ​​where my information may have been compromised. If I occasionally shop online, it is on major secure websites, I insert my card in readers of major retailers, where I am convinced that no “bad guy” has been able to install card scanners , so I never physically give my card except in one place, in restaurants. Turns out I did this earlier in the week, and we called him just to alert them to the possibility. A lesson learned – in restaurants, ask them if they will bring a card reader to your table.

You can’t prevent all identity theft, but there are things you can do to minimize the possibility, including how you only use your credit card.

This was new to me from “Many sports sites are implementing a tactic to allay the concerns of fans fearing the germs present… going without cash. In fact, according to information posted on their official websites, 26 of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams have claimed that their stadiums will be totally cash-strapped this season.

“This is helping to accelerate the trend towards digital payment methods such as credit cards, debit cards and mobile payments. Many people see them as cleaner, faster and more convenient. And fans who prefer it. cash won’t have to skip their trip to the concession stand, as several sites have installed ‘reverse ATMs’, which allow fans who prefer cash to convert greenbacks into prepaid debit cards. ”

We have spoken in the past in this column of an increase in “cashless businesses”, with the main social and non-financial setback being that there are still millions of unbanked and under-banked Americans who have not. credit or debit cards. In fact, the Federal Reserve estimated that there were 55 million unbanked or underbanked adult Americans in 2018, which represented 22% of U.S. households. A report found that nationwide rates were 7.7% unbanked and 17.9% underbanked.

It would appear that “reverse ATMs” could solve this problem, provided there are no fees associated with their use, or that merchants take the fees. These fees could be significant, given the concessions prices these days in professional stadiums.

Like so many other near-term pandemic adjustments, the question is whether this trend will increase once we get back to normal.

Finally, I hope all of these kids keep laughing, screaming, being silly and playing in their backyard when we get back to “normal”.

John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns on

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