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Transaction alerts minimize card theft damage

Julie Sherrier

Late Sunday evening during Thanksgiving weekend, I noticed several credit card transaction text alerts on my phone that occurred that day. And while the transactions were local, they weren’t made by me.

I had recently set up to receive the alerts on this particular credit card as a way to monitor any purchases made by my son, who is in college and an authorized user on the account. The card I sent with him to school was sealed in an envelope marked “For Emergency Use Only.” However, having been 19 and broke myself once, I set up the text alerts just in case. He’s off the hook on this one, though, as he had returned to school the day before, many miles from home, and did not have the card with him when he was home.

Little did it cross my mind, however, that those alerts conveniently served an altogether different purpose: notification of illegal use.

Mind you, I had the card on me, in my wallet, in my purse. I hadn’t used the card in over a month, so how the card details got hacked, I have no idea. Plus, the card was used in the town where I live, so that was equally unnerving. In the past, when my card details were hacked, charges were rung up in New York State or Pennsylvania. I live in Texas.

The credit card’s customer service representative had no explanation, but quickly killed the card, reissued me a new one and suspended the charges.

So, just where does a credit card thief spend someone else’s money illegally? Here’s the list of charges:

  • $139.90 at Lowe’s (my guess is it was for one of those pre-lit fake Christmas trees)
  • $23.72 at Taco Cabana (geez, that’s a lot of tacos)
  • $29.20 at Exxon (just topping off the tank)
  • $47.18 at Exxon (and then graciously offering to fill the gas tank for a girlfriend/buddy/sister/brother)

Total charges: $240.

I have to wonder, will this thief ever get caught? And I can’t help but let my imagination wander and think how it feels to use someone else’s credit card number. Would you be nervous? Would you wear a hat to avoid being identified on a store’s security cam? If whatever you bought from Lowe’s was a Christmas gift, would you feel pride or shame when the recipient showered you with gratitude?

Not being skilled in the art of theft, I wouldn’t know. But it did feel good to thwart any further theft quickly, thanks to those handy text alerts.

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