I’m a Victim of Identity Crime!

Identity ThiefA few months ago, a suspicious charge from Carfax.com showed up on my corporate American Express card statement.  I called Amex; Amex promptly reversed the charges.  The next month, another charge appeared; I called Amex and Amex again reversed the charge but also recommended that I change my card number.  I even contacted Carfax but they said they could not provide any information on the charges, that I had to go through my credit card company.  How ridiculous is that?

So I changed my card number but the Carfax charge comes up again.  Now I was really worried.  Does the thief have access to my personal accounts?    How did he or she get my new card number right away?  So again I called Amex and here is what I learned:

  • Amex reversed the previous charges but did not instigate a fraud investigation.  Great, I didn’t get charged but the thief got away scot free for three months.
  • Amex changed my card number but honored the recurring charge from Carfax, which turned out to be a subscription.  Amex routinely allows subscriptions to still be processed, as a service to card holders, but I specifically changed my card number to stop the recurring, fraudulent charges from Carfax.
  • Carfax has very little protections against credit card theft on their site. The security number is not required and, according to customer service, they don’t validate against the billing address.  Which means any hacker who has the algorithm can generate a valid credit card number and use it on Carfax.  Okay, I know it’s not that simple, but Carfax sure could make it harder to use a stolen credit card number.
  • There are thousands of fraudulent charges every day and the credit card companies, merchants and law enforcement simply can’t investigate them all, so the vast majority of crooks get away with their crimes.

Ugh.  So what’s a consumer to do?  A Web site of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Bank of America (IDSafety.org) has these tips:

  • Protect your personal information.
  • Share your personal information prudently; just because someone asks for your social security number does not mean you should share it.
  • Eliminate paper and shred, shred, shred.
  • Secure your computer; whenever I walk away from my laptop, I lock it.
  • Secure your E-mail; again, lock your computer and use a strong password.
  • Review your financial activities/Review all statements carefully.

With the economy tanking, crime is on the rise, so be safe out there in cyberspace!

7 thoughts on “I’m a Victim of Identity Crime!

  1. This happened to my corporate credit card at my last job. There were six of us in the office with corporate cards and not three months went by with at least one of us appealing a fraudulent charge or two. The last fraudulent charge I had on my corporate card was for a baby clothing store in the UK! When I would ask the credit card company why this was happening on all of our corporate accounts with what I thought was alarming frequency, the rep said she did not know–not good enough. I wonder if somehow corporate accounts are more vulnerable or the fact that several people in the same office with a corporate card somehow increased the chances of fraud? I wish I knew the answer. In the meantime, I am paranoid with all my personal accounts (not just credit cards). I require of each vendor I do business with to validate my identity each time I have contact with them. This seems like a no-brainer, but I have had to train at least two vendors on proper identification after others who got a hold of my account were able to make changes. The take home, be vigilant and use some common sense!

  2. Hi Joanna and Happy New Year! This happened to me just over a year ago. I purchased some Adobe software online, and the next day had two charges from HP. HP was very good and cancelled the order, and the bank fraud unit also acted swiftly. One other thing one should do is contact the police. An increasing number of police departments have units that deal with identity theft (mine does). I haven’t had a problem since. Have a great (and theft free) 2009!

  3. Robert, thanks for the reminder to call the police. I was so discouraged by Carfax’s response that I just dealt with Amex directly. You are right. Law enforcement is grappling with the flood of identity crimes and we can’t let the crooks get away with their evil deeds.

  4. First, let me say, very beautiful blog you have. I like the colours.

    As long as you have changed your credit card number, I think you should not be worried anymore. A new card number is like … well, a new card, and if someone out there has your information, without the card number, can not do anything.
    Also, from your post and your description of that website and their weak security, I think that this is more of a lucky hit rather than someone having your card number.

    I personally think that if credit card providers give the option to change card number every once in a while, I think credit card fraud will decrease dramatically. Surly, it helps eliminate the card number being stored here and there, giving the consumer a fresh start every once in a while.

    It is comforting to hear that your credit card company did give you the option of a new card number right away; they are smart and they know that a new card number eliminates all headaches associated with fraud.

  5. Monique, thanks so much for your comment. I agree with you that credit card companies should encourage, if not facilitate, the changing of credit card numbers on a regular basis. What scares me is that these small, fraudulent charges seem so common and there are simply not enough law enforcement resources to investigate all of them so most crooks get away with their crimes.

    I think some of the credit card companies will give you a one-time use credit card number. I’m going to have to look into that more.

  6. It is very unfortunate that this happens but as a personal financial consultant, I see this all too much. The important part is knowing the steps to prevent fraud. First and most important, always keep track of charges made on your card. Check your online billing at least once a week to find odd transactions. Also, make sure that before you put any information online, the web address starts with https://www not http://www the s stands for secure and your information will usually be safe. I’m sorry this happened to you but it is definitely an eye opener huh? The good news is consumers are protected under the consumer protection act which states that consumers can not be held liable for any loss theft fraud or other wise unauthorized purchases. Calling the bank should solve the issue but once this has happened, it is important to take a look at your credit report to ensure that the idiots using your credit cards aren’t using your social and other proprietary information.

  7. I WAS RECENTLY CHARGED FOR A CARFAX THAT I DID NOT REQUEST OR AURTHURIZE THESE CHARGES TO MY CREDIT CARD. I WOULD APPRECIATE A RESPONSE ASAP. I AM IN THE PROCESS OF FILING FRAUD CHARGES WITH MY BANK. Note that there is no phone number for carfax.com and no way to contact them w/o paying for an account.

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