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What I Learned When Someone Stole My Credit Card

August 14, 2017
What I Learned When Someone Stole My Credit Card | Tiny Ambitions

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.

What I Learned When Someone Stole My Credit Card | Tiny Ambitions


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

  • Wins from the Weekend #8 – COURTNEY A. CASTO September 20, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    […] of credit card fraud? This incident reminded me of a recent discussion on Britt’s blog, Tiny Ambitions.   Have you seen this? I’m behind because this was actually written last year but […]

  • Kevin and Debra August 31, 2017 at 11:40 am

    I had my credit card and bank card stolen from my purse while at work one evening. My one credit card has a lower limit (1500.00) I use it until close to limit, pay off and use again. When the card was stolen, it was almost to the limit. Good thing for me (not so much for the person who stole the card!). My bank card was different. But like you, my bank called me right away. The stealer was using my bank card at a local drug store and a local grocery store to purchase gift cards in large amounts. The merchants were ones I frequented but not the large priced items. When I called the bank, they asked if these were legit purchases. Of course I said no, they cancelled my card and would send new ones. My account was not billed for the two big amounts, I did have to call the police and fill out a stolen credit card report. The bank required that I provide them with a copy of the report and I had to fill out another form stating my card was stolen, I did not fraudulently use the card. This is what the bank provides to their insurance company.

    I no longer take my purse into work. If it can not fit in my pant pocket, I don’t carry it to work (and I never lock my purse in my car either!)

    PS- the police told me that the stealers will often use the stolen card just once to buy multiple gift cards. Transactions can not be traced like on a credit card or bank card.

    • Britt August 31, 2017 at 6:08 pm

      Wow, I’m glad the bank reversed everything for you! That’s so scary!

  • […] of credit card fraud? This incident reminded me of a recent discussion on Britt’s blog, Tiny Ambitions.   Have you seen this? I’m behind because this was actually written last year but […]

  • Zinny August 18, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Wow..I’m glad it was resolved early enough. I just came across your blog and I must say that I’m in love. I’ll be reading more blog posts this weekend.
    I love the whole idea behind being a minimalist and your blog is just what I absolutely need. Cheers!

    • Britt August 18, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      Thanks Zinny! Welcome to Tiny Ambitions!

  • Amanda @ My Life, I Guess August 17, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    I’m grateful that no, this has not happened to me. The only thing sort of close to this that happened to me was when my now-husband pre-ordered the new Xbox on my credit card. We were out for lunch when I got a call from the bank. Because it was a larger purchase that was changed when the item shipped (opposed to when we placed the order), and was something completely unusual for me to buy, the bank flagged it. And I was happy they did! Even though it was a purchase I/we made, the bank was on top of it! I was so impressed 🙂

    • Britt August 17, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      Yay! I’m glad to have a happier story in this thread. That’s awesome that your bank was on top of it!

  • Courtney A. Casto August 16, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    That is SO frustrating! I had trouble for more than 6 months a few years ago. Every few weeks someone would steal my credit card number and I’d have to get it replaced. I knew it wasn’t a coincidence but it took a lot to put a stop to it. Each time they started with putting money onto a Starbucks gift card. Finally, after someone used my OTHER card to do the same thing I figured out they were getting my info from a website where I had chosen to “save this card for future purchases.” I’m not 100% sure what site it was but I have a hunch. After I went through every site I could think of and deleted my saved card information the fraud stopped.

    My advice is don’t ever save your card information on a site. Type it in every time. And monitor your accounts daily if you can.

    • Britt August 16, 2017 at 10:06 pm

      Wow, that’s crazy! Was it a reputable site that this happened on? Because that would make me super nervous! Since I just got a new card, it’s hasn’t been ‘saved’ in very many places and I don’t think I’ll do it now! Thanks for sharing!

      • Courtney A. Casto August 16, 2017 at 10:24 pm

        Well, I narrowed it down to 2 most likely suspects. One was a small, local company that has since gone out of business and the second was a recurring coffee shipment I had for awhile from a mid-size company. It could have been either one. I think the risk is there anytime you save your card information to an account. Lesson learned!

  • The 76K Project August 16, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    A few months ago, we discovered that someone had hacked into our bank account and had transferred out $2000. It was still in process, so the bank was able to put a stop to the activity. Had we not caught it before it went through, we may have lost the money. My lesson there: check my bank account regularly… ideally, every day.

    • Britt August 16, 2017 at 5:48 pm

      Wow, I’m glad the bank caught it in time! I do regularly check my accounts. I’m with an online bank so it’s easy enough to do. Constant vigilance is the key! Thanks for reading.

  • Lisa | Simple Life Experiment August 15, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    So glad to hear that your bank totally had your back when this happened! I haven’t had my credit card details stolen but given that so much of our lives are now lived online, I think there’s a high chance that it will happen to all of us at some point, no matter how careful we are. I’ve heard that banks here in Australia are pretty similar in their approach and are known to take swift action when something fishy crops up. I love your reflection on perspective here, too. I really agree that it can change everything. I like to think that while bad things do happen, things seem to go right most of the time, so there is no doubt always something pleasant around the corner 🙂

  • spiffikins August 15, 2017 at 11:36 am

    I’ve had my card replaced a couple of times because of fraudulent charges – the weirdest one taught me that you don’t even have to USE your card, for someone to steal the number and use it! I had a BMO card that I did not use – it was my Canadian card for when I came home to Vancouver for vacation – and someone started using it to buy Bell Mobility minutes in Ontario! It all got sorted out, but that time it wasn’t anything scooping my number while I swiped it, since my card hadn’t been swiped in 3-4 years!

    • Britt August 15, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      Wow, that’s scary! I didn’t know you could still have it stolen even if you weren’t using it. I’m glad it all got sorted out for you!

  • jessicarosewilliams August 14, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    You are your spending habits – I LOVE that! Glad it all got sorted for you. All that yoga and meditation is a God send when we need to step back and chill out. Don’t you think?

    • Britt August 14, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks! And ya absolutely. Pre yoga Brittany would have lost her mind if something like this happened.

      • jessicarosewilliams August 14, 2017 at 1:21 pm

        Pre yoga Jess would have too! I just don’t get as stressed out as I used to.

  • Hanna @ minimal marathoner August 14, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Wow, that sucks! Glad you came out of it unscathed. I had a couple fraudulent charges on my card this year – luckily, it was only a couple hundred dollars, and when I requested to have the charges removed the bank just voided them without asking questions. Years ago I also had my actual physical card stolen when I dropped it on the street.

    It definitely reminds me (even if only temporarily) to be more careful. With so much of our purchasing happening digitally and with cards these days, I think we are getting a little too comfortable and thieves are taking advantage. It’s a good reminder to be diligent about checking bank and card balances regularly. It makes me wish I were more in the habit of just taking cash out from the bank and using that to pay for things more often.

    • Britt August 14, 2017 at 12:39 pm

      Phew! I’m glad your bank reversed the charges. I traditionally have not liked using cash to pay for things because it’s obviously harder to track, but this experience has nudged me in that direction. Thanks for reading!

  • Journeys of The Zoo August 14, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Dear Britt,

    Sorry that this happened to you but glad they caught it before the bad guys won.

    I have never had my credit card compromised but my Dad has.

    Off to check my credit card transactions 🙂

    Besos Sarah.

  • Miguel @ The Rich Miser August 14, 2017 at 11:54 am

    I’ve had my credit card stolen once or twice and, like you say, it’s just a matter of having the bank cancel it and send you a new one. However, I think it’s really important to look at the past statements for that card in order to find any bills that are automatically paid with it. Any missed payments with those merchants could potentially result in not just late fees, but compromised credit.

    • Britt August 14, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      That’s a really good point! The only things for me were Netflix and my Internet bill. Netflix was kind enough to offer me an extension until I got my new card. And work pays for my internet so I just used that card. I know it wouldn’t be that easy for everyone though!

    Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.