Living with credit, Protecting yourself

4 stupid mistakes I made after suspecting card fraud

Julie Loffredi

“Hi, I’d like to report a fraud….”

I’ve made plenty of calls to the fraud departments of my card issuers in recent years. Crooks seem to have a knack for stealing my card info, and unauthorized charges have turned up on my credit card statements many times over the years. As a result, I’ve often been on the phone having to clean up the mess.

While I now consider myself an “amateur pro” at reporting fraud properly to card companies, I’ve made a few mistakes in the past. Here are a few blunders I vow never to make again:

1. Wait too long to report fraud
Credit card companies always say, “Report fraud immediately.” They even make it easy for us! A simple text, email or call to customer service can start a fraud report and put a quick halt to a thief’s spending spree.

So, why did I wait to report fraud? I made the stupid mistake of shrugging off a bizarre-looking charge, filing it under “wait until tomorrow” and turning in for the night.

The next morning, I woke up to an ominous warning text from my card company that my account number had been hacked. While I was sleeping, crooks had managed to rack up hundreds of dollars in charges on my account in just a few hours.

If I had called immediately, I would have been able to put an instant freeze on my card.

2. Fail to scrutinize small charges
A police detective once warned me to watch out for odd $1 or $2 charges on my accounts. He said that card hackers often will make small, “innocent looking” purchases that a cardholder may overlook, before going on a spending rampage.

And that is exactly what happened the last time I was hacked. I noticed a series of $1 PayPal charges. Since I had a PayPal account, I ignored what should have triggered my Spidey sense.

Then came the whopper a few hours later, a $200 charge I definitely did NOT make.

As it turns out, a scoundrel bought a bunch of $50 store gift cards with my card.

I called and reported the fraud, but I could have halted the activity sooner if I had looked more closely at those bogus charges.

3. Ignore my gut instincts
I’ve put my security in jeopardy over the years by thinking I was immune to theft. That “it won’t happen to me” attitude backfired.

I’ve been guilty in the past of using shady public Wi-Fi, and I even used an ATM I suspected was affixed with a skimming device while I was on vacation in Florida (you can read about that here).

I since have  learned to trust my instincts when it comes to my personal security. I avoid using  public Wi-Fi, and I withdraw money only from ATMs in familiar places.

4. Report a legit charge as fraud
As a former frequent fraud victim, I developed a bad case of paranoia. I even got a little too carried away and ended up reporting some charges as fraud to my credit card company when they turned out to be legit. (I’m embarrassed to say I’ve done this more than once).

What makes this even worse? The last time I reported a fraudulent charge, it was an online donation that I had made to a charity.

How did this happen? Well, the donation was posted to my account a few weeks after I made the payment. While scanning my statement, the charge didn’t have the exact name of the charity. Instead, it was listed under another nonprofit that I didn’t recognize.

Since I was suffering from a bad case of what I’ll call “mommy forgetful brain” (I had a  newborn at the time), I didn’t remember making the $25 payment to some place in California. So I reported the charge as fraudulent.

A few days later when I received a thank you note in the mail for my donation I realized the nonprofit’s name was the same as the one on my account statement, I was horrified!

I called back my credit card company and explained my honest mistake (which you should always do) — and they yanked my fraud report.

Learn from my mistakes
These are all lessons I learned the hard way. My hope is that maybe sharing my misadventures with security will keep you avoid being a victim of fraud. Or worse yet — reporting a legit charge as suspected fraud!

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