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Stopping credit-card fraud by stopping credit-card use

Submitted by on Thursday, 27 August 2009 No Comment

Want in on a little secret about how your credit card company is going to guarantee that you won’t be responsible for any fraudulent purchases?

They’re going to do it by stopping anyone – including you – from using your card.

In fact, if  your actions appear suspicious enough to the people who are now carefully combing your accounts for fraud,  you could be blocked from accessing most of your money.

I know of what I speak. On one particular day, our bank locked up a bank card, a checking account and a credit card because we commited the heinous offense of trying to buy a television. They screwed up and left one bank card open, so we were able to complete the purchase, but not before we actually did wind up looking like thieves.

The first incident – Dad’s check card – was kind of amusing. It happened as we tried to fill – but not overfill – a UHaul we’d rented to haul junk from the garage.

Dad tried it the first time – no, honey, I said it needs 10 gallons of gas, not $10.

He tried again, but the needle was a bit shy when he started the engine. He gave it one more shot, and $2 worth of gas later, it was mission accomplished.

About an hour later, we got a text message from the bank that a fraud alert had been placed on the card. I called, and that one was at least cleared up quickly.

A week later, we were half moved in at Fort Irwin and decided to go shopping for major appliances – a washer and dryer, a grill, a deep freeze and patio furniture. Yes, the spree became a little pricey, but the items we were replacing were more than a decade old. We had the money in checking to cover it. We planned to use the card and transfer the money later.

The next day, we bought an inexpensive sofa for the family room and cheap bar stools for the kitchen.

The next day, I tried to buy groceries and cleaning supplies. No dice. Luckily, I had my checkbook with me.

Why charge groceries? Well, because my Internet service provider also stinks and I didn’t have a secure line so I could transfer money into the account that my check card pulls from.

The following weekend, we tried to buy the TV. Dad’s card was rejected – he was a bit over his 24-hour limit. The credit card was rejected. The check was rejected, and I knew there was way more than enough money in the account to cover the purchase.

We found an ATM for our bank and drew out the daily limit on my check card. That, combined with everything we had in our wallets, was enough to finish the purchase. I could feel the eyes of every clerk in that store on us by then. I’m amazed they didn’t call the police to examine the cash. At that point, even I would concede that we looked like scam artists.

The next day, I got on the phone with my beloved bank.

Yes, a fraud alert had been placed on the credit card – they had no explanation for the problem with the checking account.

And I was supposed to know this … how?

I had no online banking access. Our bank has no branch on post. The ATM had told me nothing the day before. The bank never tried to contact me or ask that I contact them. I guess they assume that they’ll hear from you eventually, when your head’s ready to explode with frustration.

The smooth-talking customer service rep finally agreed to let me access my money, but only after I told him where I’d been in April. Luckily, it was a memorable trip.

And then he proceeded to douse the flames with gasoline by telling me that these moves now are standard procedure, that people are carefully examining accounts for any hint of suspicious activity.

Say what?!

Someone’s sitting somewhere combing through my banking records and examining every expenditure I make? That’s kind of creepy and invasive.

“It’s for your protection,” he said.

Baloney. It’s for the banks’ protection.

It allows them to avoid adding to the losses of liar loans and foolish mergers. And it gives them a slick marketing line about guaranteeing you’ll never have to cover fraudulent purchases.

What they don’t tell you is you’ll also never be able to make purchases either.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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