One of My Credit Cards Was Compromised. Again. ’Tis the Season…

For the third time in years, I am about to get a new account number for my Discover credit card because someone decided to steal my account number at some point and use it to attempt to spend $980.78 at a Home Depot which is located approximately 35 miles from where I am based.

One of My Credit Cards Was Compromised. Again. ’Tis the Season…

Someone at Discover was monitoring the use of that credit card and thought that the location at where it was being used was a cautionary red flag; so an agent took the due diligence to both decline the sale and contact me to ask if I was using the credit card there. I said no, and I will be issued a new account number for my Discover credit card since the current account number has now been compromised.

Fortunately, I do not have to be concerned about any loss of money — but unfortunately, the compromise of credit card account numbers has become so prevalent that the process has almost become routine.

Unfortunately, the holidays are not just about sharing joyous times, giving gifts, dining on delicious food and reaching inward towards your spirituality and faith. As evidenced by my recent experience, the holiday season is an excellent time for thieves to steal credit card account numbers and go on a spending spree for ill-gotten goods and services until the bank which issued the credit card catches on.

Recounting a Past Experience of Mine

The bank which issued one of my credit cards sent an e-mail message on Monday, December 1, 2014 claiming to have denied a charge from a company from which I have never heard. I was asked to click either a green Yes button to verify the legitimacy of that questionable charge; or a red No button to indeed verify that the charge was not legitimate.

I did what you are supposed to do: call the bank which issued the credit card and speak to a live person and never click on the link provided in the e-mail message nor respond to the e-mail message. I have received a lot of e-mail messages lately from what appear to be legitimate companies asking me to click on a link to either send them information or verify something; and almost always, I hover my cursor over the link for a second, which then ultimately reveals an unknown uniform resource locator — or URL — which has nothing to do with the legitimate company. This is the usual confirmation that the e-mail message is a “phishing” scam where a questionable entity is attempting to gather vital information from me — most likely for the sender to send a virus to my computer or be able to steal my identity.

Upon calling the telephone number on the rear of my credit card — which I did that night — the representative confirmed that the e-mail message was not only indeed legitimate; but there was another questionable charge posted to the account that was not initiated by me.

After answering a few more questions, the credit card was immediately deactivated; a new credit card account number was assigned to it; and any credits earned by using that credit card will automatically be transferred to my new credit card number. In fact, the biggest inconvenience will be to use my new credit card number with companies — such as airlines and hotels — which have my old credit card number on record…

…but was that a good idea — especially in light of the apparent security breach with the official Internet web site of the Hilton HHonors frequent guest loyalty program where the accounts of members were reportedly compromised, which had occurred in October of 2014; and virtually every other frequent travel loyalty program had experienced similar compromises to their security over the years?

’Tis the Season

As careful as I am with my credit cards, I still experienced fraudulent activity. When asked about how the credit card could have been compromised despite my vigilance in keeping my credit card as secure as possible, the representative of the bank which issued the credit card replied that whenever I use the credit card, the numbers get thrown out there into cyberspace.

I am not sure I completely buy that explanation; but it certainly is plausible — and yet unfortunate at the same time. I suppose that security breaches — such as with Equifax in 2017 as one of countless examples and could have easily been prevented — have not exactly helped matters. The numbers are staggering: hundreds of millions of credit card numbers and pieces of customer data were stolen with Equifax incident — as well as what seems to be virtually every major corporation through breaches of their security protocols.

Alas, ’tis the season for identity theft and credit card fraud — which are not necessarily mutually exclusive but are quite different from each other — as you can be most susceptible to both during what should be a joyous holiday season. Technology can be its own dichotomy when it pertains to identity theft, as it can both reduce and increase the risk of it happening to you.

It is a huge game where the stakes are high: when someone steals your identity through a number of different methods, that person can use your information to purchase just about anything they want — and simultaneously render your life miserable for years to come as you attempt to regain your identity.

That thankfully did not happen to me — but stealing the number of a credit card can be a logical first step towards full-blown identity theft if not noticed and caught in time. It ultimately did not cost me a single penny thanks to the protections afforded to holders of credit cards — as I already mentioned, there are inconveniences involved with having a credit card compromised — but it is still a serious problem.

Summary

It is almost impossible to trust anyone these days when it comes to identity theft — as demonstrated with the example of the employees of jetBlue Airways who were accused of committing identity theft back in the spring of 2007. It is equally almost impossible to completely prevent yourself from either becoming a victim of identity theft or having your credit card compromised, as had just happened to me despite my vigilance…

…but by following the list of recommended precautionary actions in this article which I wrote on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 — I intend to update that article in the near future — you can significantly mitigate the risk.

Other than the occasional contact from an employee of the security department of any of the companies which issued my credit cards to inform me — after they have been verified, of course — that there is a possible fraud alert on my credit card account from someone attempting to abuse it, I have thankfully never been a victim of identity theft even though I have had my credit cards compromised several times. Unfortunately, many people are the prey of someone attempting to use their credit card account numbers fraudulently to purchase items — but fortunately, those issues are usually resolved quickly and easily, thanks to the proactive practices of the issuers of credit card. As I mentioned earlier in this article, losing the affected credit card account and opening a new one is an irritating though minor inconvenience at best — but it sure beats the alternative…

…and if you are already experiencing the alternative by having already unfortunately become the victim of identity theft, help is available: please be sure to contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 1-888-400-5530. The services offered are at no cost to victims of identity theft. You can also find out additional information through the Federal Trade Commission of the United States.

If you have any additional helpful information to minimizing becoming a victim of identity theft or the unauthorized use of your credit card account number, please add it in the Comments section below. Thank you.

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

3 thoughts on “One of My Credit Cards Was Compromised. Again. ’Tis the Season…”

  1. Jim F. says:

    The Home Depot where the fraudulent account was opened wasn’t in New York state, was it? That’s where one of my cards was used 3 years ago to purchase just under $1,000 worth of air conditioners by someone who gave an Illinois home address. I feel your pain.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      No, Jim F. — the Home Depot in question for the most recent incident is located in the state of Georgia…

      …but if I recall correctly, the incident back in 2014 occurred at a Home Depot in New York as one of multiple merchants.

  2. debit says:

    They should allow us to freeze accounts. Every issuer should be forced to provide an option to freeze the card till you are ready to use it.

    I keep mine frozen

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