Robert Barron column: Watch out for credit card fraud

I cancelled my Mastercard earlier this week.

I cancelled my Mastercard earlier this week.

It’s not because of any major issues with the credit company or that I have decided to live off the grid. It’s simply because my credit card statement appears to have disappeared from my mailbox, and I have no idea what has happened to it.

I figured I could take the chance that I had unwittingly taken it into my home with the other correspondence and bills from my mailbox and accidentally tossed it into the paper recycling.

But I wasn’t willing to take that chance.

I’ve had credit card information stolen twice before over the past 10 years, and the aggravation and inconvenience of having to deal with all the repercussions from that spurred me to act quickly this time to nip the problem in the bud.

The first time, I was among that naive segment of the population who thinks that ripping your bank statements to ribbons before discarding them into the household garbage was sufficient to deter anyone rifling through my garbage from using them for anything useful.

I was astounded when I opened up my credit card statement at the time and discovered there were charges on it that I didn’t make, well into the thousands of dollars, from all over the Lower Mainland and parts of Vancouver Island.

That meant that someone had gotten into my garbage somewhere along the line, collected the hundreds of fragments of my card statement and, amazingly, put them all together enough to retrieve banking information that allowed them to set up a new credit card in my name.

After that, I vowed never to throw out any of my banking information again and kept all bank statements safely tucked away at home until such times as I attended someone’s bonfire and burned it all to dust.

I’m still not sure how criminals managed to get at my personal information the second time (I figure it was likely taken during the increasing number of thefts from companies that have such information), but that also resulted in hundreds of dollars on my credit card that I didn’t charge.

Both times, I had to go through the process of calling the credit card companies explaining what had happened and identifying the charges that weren’t mine.

That was followed by a call from the police’s fraud squad looking for more information as they created a file for the case.

They were all very polite, and the charges were reversed, but I was left with the feeling that they were suspicious of me and suspected that I may be trying to pull a fast one.

My fear of having to go through the process for a third time led to me to calling Mastercard the minute I suspected that my statement had been taken from my mailbox.

I was relieved when I was told that there were no unknown charges on my card, but the customer service lady advised me that it was best to cancel the card and the company would send me a new one, with new account numbers, just in case.

It’s annoying, but an increasing number of people have to face this inconvenient and stressful reality every day as criminals up their game and devise all kinds of new ways to get at your money and resources.

I’m considering changing my mailbox with one that can only be opened with a key, but I suspect even that won’t be enough to keep the most determined fraudsters away.

Maybe it is better to live off the grid.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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