A couple of weeks ago, I received the call from my bank that no one wants to get.
Miss, we believe you’ve been the target of credit card fraud. Your card information has been stolen and we have to cancel it.
Now, this was not the news I was expecting to get that morning. I had, in fact, been trying to buy something from Amazon that morning and when it didn’t go through I figured it was just some kind of error. That or the spending gods were trying to tell me I didn’t need a new stylus to write future blog posts with.
Boy, was I wrong.
It turns out that someone had stolen my credit card information, made a physical copy of the card and had tried to use it to purchase thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. Basically, your boilerplate template of credit card fraud.
Thankfully, and to my bank’s credit, none of these transactions were successfully processed. The fix, on their end at least, was as easy as canceling the card and having a new one mailed out to me.
I know it could have been so much worse. Still, the whole situation taught me a few things.
You Are Your Spending Habits (For Better or For Worse)
If you looked at your last five bank transactions, what would they say about you? In my case, they would say I grocery shop a lot (because it’s practically the only thing I spend money on these days, other than rent), and spend too much money on cat toys. What can I say, I’m a proud cat-parent.
A key reason why my bank was able to flag the suspicious transactions as fraudulent was because they originated in places I do not normally shop. Or, if I do shop there, I wouldn’t normally use my credit card. (One of them is famous for their golden arches, and the other is the world’s largest company.) This is not a judgment on the kind of places you choose to frequent. It doesn’t matter if you do shop at these fine establishments. Because, if you do, then you’d just have a different set of places that would be considered out of the ordinary.
In this instance, what matters is recognizing that your spending habits do define you – on paper at the very least. And really, that’s all you are to your bank anyway, a series of transactions in certain places at certain times. In regular, daily life, a pattern of such transactions becomes so clear, you could probably predict what your next transaction would be.
If I did regularly shop at the places the fraudsters tried to use my card, would they have gotten away with it?
Perhaps. If they had had the foresight to shop in the same province where I live (Ontario), and not outside of it, they very well might have.
Fraudsters Don’t Discriminate (How Equal Opportunity of Them)
I live in a town of 2000 people. 2000! Now, that will be changing soon. However, the fact remains that, somewhere in my 2000 person town a payment terminal was compromised. When my bank relayed to me how THEY thought the fraud had occurred, I was frozen. I shop at the SAME places every week (and I’m sure you do too). All of them respectable, mostly franchise-eque branded stores. Initially, that meant that somewhere in my town, somewhere I regularly shopped, was no longer a safe option.
Once I looked back at my transaction history in more detail, I realized there was only one logical place it could have happened – a gas station between my town and the next town over. What’s funny about this whole thing is that I wouldn’t normally pay at the pump with my credit card. But, I was trying to maximize the cash back I get through my bank (silly me!). Rest assured, I will be paying cold hard cash at that gas station from now on (if I can muster the courage to go there again).
I honestly never thought something like this would happen ‘where I live’. I assumed credit card fraud was a much more urban phenomenon. This assumption was based purely on numbers. More people in urban areas = more potential targets. But, you know what people say when you assume!
Banks Are Pretty Great These Days (Woot!)
Based on things I had read and seen in the media, I assumed that credit card fraud always led to ruined credit scores, broken marriages and tons of debt. Not so thanks to my bank! (Tangerine for those who are curious).
Because of their vigilance on my behalf, none of the fraudulent transactions made it onto my statement. (Through other work-related transactions, I now know that most banks will call you if a large purchase is made with your card, especially if that purchase is electronics related. This might be annoying if you really are trying to make a big purchase (i.e. a computer), but it will come in handy if anyone steals your credit card.)
Except for the fact that my bank had to cancel my card and send me a new one (and having to ask Netflix for a bill extension), it’s like it never happened.
I know these kinds of protections are fairly standard these days, but I still count myself very lucky for how it worked out.
So, if you’re reading this Tangerine, thanks for having my back.
Importance Shifts with Perspective (Hindsight is 20/20)
Yes, some wonderful person out there decided to commit credit card fraud using my card. But, oddly enough, it wasn’t the end of the world. It was an annoying inconvenience (primarily because I only have one credit card), but that’s all. On any normal day, this would have been the top story in our house.
However, the day I got the call from Tangerine, was the same day Mr. Tiny Ambitions got a job offer and we found out that we’d be moving!
Obviously, the great career opportunity overshadows the all-too common occurrence of credit card fraud. By the end of the day, I’d pretty much forgotten all about it because I was so excited for Mr. TA!
Maybe that’s another lesson I’ve learned from this. Perspective can change any situation. Had it not been for Mr. TA’s job news, I probably would have stewed in the situation for much longer than necessary, berating myself for making a stupid mistake and trying to pinpoint exactly when and where it had happened. This would have only resulted in increased mental turmoil, nothing more. Instead, I nearly forgot all about it!
Has anything like this ever happened to you? What did you learn from it? Let me know in the comments.
Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions