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An Identity Theft Tool
Identity theft is on the rise
Oh No, Not Again! - by awordlover
Last month, I went to log online to my Discover card account and I was denied access. A phone number to Discover's credit card fraud department popped up on my screen. Immediately a feeling of dread entered me and I thought, Oh no! Not again!
In the past three years, I've been a victim of credit card fraud five times. All were with Discover card. Not one of those times did someone steal my "physical" credit card. They stole the number. You would think that I'd just get rid of my Discover card and go with another credit card company. But it wasn't the security at Discover card company that was causing my numbers to be stolen; it was cyber criminals who are vigilant for frequent online credit card users like me.
January 22, 2013 UPDATE:
Someone reported this hub saying that the links and screenshots I included were linked to spam and profit making opportunities. So, in order to let this hub remain published, I had to remove all links and screenshots. So, my hub looks a bit bare and I apologize for that. When I got approval to republish this hub after removing the links and screenshots, I waited three days, and then I went back to put some of the links (not the screenshots) into the sidebar.
The links were to the 3 Credit Bureaus for the one annual free credit report allowed per person. I thought they were important to include in this hub. The hub was immediately flagged again; I was told to immediately remove the links and any further (repeat) violations would cause me to be kicked off hubpages. I don't think it is fair, but if I want to keep writing here, I will have to abide. Regarding this hub, the basic information I wanted to get across speaks for itself in the hub, but it would have been nice to have the links and screenshots as accompaniment.
Thieves only need your credit card number
How My Credit Card Was Used Online - by awordlover
On each event, my credit card number was accessed from an online merchant where I had purchased something. I do quite a lot of online buying. And I almost always use Discover card because I get great cash back bonuses.
Discover has a policy (like many credit card companies) that if you did not purchase an item that shows up on your bill, they will forgive the debt (put it "in dispute") while investigating it for credit card theft. In their advertisement, they say you may be liable for the first $50, and I've never paid that as well. I have been a Discover card customer since 1986 and it is the credit card that has the highest credit allowance limit on it of all my cards. So when I need to buy big ticket items, that's the card I hit to charge it. I've even bought a $10,000 used car and charged it on Discover. Big cash back bonus on that one! ::smile::
So why don't I use an identity theft monitoring agency?
Two years ago, I was using Lifelock and they did not catch the gal who decided to buy an Armani suit for her boyfriend on my Discover card. She gave his address so that the store could deliver it to him with an Armani logo card and her name as the gifter. She was easy for Discover card to catch. But Lifelock didn't catch it.
Then I decided to use an identity theft service that my bank offered FREE because I was such a loyal customer. They missed the fella that bought two one way tickets to Pakistan at $2000 per ticket (total $4000). He was never caught and Discover card forgave me the debt.
And then there was a gal who decided to use my credit card number to buy "stuff" for her new apartment in Longview, Texas after she moved out of her parents home a few blocks away. She had a My Space page and just couldn't help herself - she blabbed to everyone by writing "I bought all my new stuff on 'credit' - if you know what I mean."
When Discover called me to ask about over $5,000 of charges to an address in Longview, Texas, I did a simple search of social networks and the Longview phone book, and it wasn't too much longer after, she was caught and prosecuted for credit card theft. She and her parents were listed in the phone book and my quick search online gave all the information needed for Discover card to locate her. I never heard the outcome but I was glad she got caught. Rarely will a credit card company clue you in on what happens after they are caught because it is turned over to their legal department.
Credit Protection Agencies
Should one use credit card protection agencies like Lifelock, ID Theft, IdentiyTheft, and countless others?
They are good for peace of mind.
But they can also become very expensive to the "average" person who doesn't have that extra money to pay for it monthly or annually.
You need to investigate each one and decide which one fits your budget, lifestyle and reporting preferences.
So after seeing that dreaded popup, and using the phone number on my screen, I placed a call to Discover's Fraud Department. I wanted to know why I was being denied access to my online account and did they know something I didn't know?
I had to answer a list of questions for them to verify MY identity before they would even talk to me. Not once did the lady ask for my full credit card number, just the last four digits, my date of birth, social security number, home address, and verifying the last few purchases I made over this weekend.
I mentioned that their verifying system was crap and that anyone could have given them that information if they knew enough about me. I decided to put my feelings aside and get to the root of the problem....why was I being denied access to my online account?
We have just recently moved from Pennsylvania to Florida.
I have racked up quite a bit of charges on our Discover card over the last two months, between hotels while driving to get here, the moving company who transported our belongings, all the gasoline fill ups and meals on the road, trips to Walmart for every darn thing you need when you move into a new home, hhGregg for the refrigerator, Stanley Steemer to clean the carpets.... you name it, I charged it.
My personal experience
So, I was told the reason my account was flagged was because of 'overactivity' -- when they saw so much being charged, they flagged my online account.
Usually they call me on the phone for items over $250 and ask "Did you make a purchase at "So and So store" and can you verify the amount of the purchase?" That's what I like about them, they always check to make sure those big ticket items were my purchase!
But this time, they couldn't call us. The house phone was disconnected in Pennsylvania when we moved out and we didn't have a forwarding number here. It took over a month to get moved in and set up here before we got a house phone and internet. Our cell phones have set amount of minutes on them per month to be shared between our 4 phones, so we rarely give our cell numbers out to anyone except family and close friends. Our cell phones are for emergency use usually, not to give to credit card companies so they can leave long-winded advertising messages.
By keeping our cell numbers to a small circle of 'known' entities, it also means we don't get those automated election campaign calls, and the endless requests for donations from the gazillion of calling rooms around the country (and abroad) that work for 'charities' and foundations. We put a "Do Not Call' status on home phone for many of these types of calls as well.
So why didn't they just flag me at a store?
Besides being mortified, it would have gotten my attention a lot quicker.
But because we didn't go over our credit limit, they couldn't have a merchant refuse our card at a point of purchase.
The lady said the only other way they had to get our attention was to flag us online and that would get us to call them.
You are entitled to a free credit report once a year
There are a lot of companies that offer free credit reports and people are scammed by them every day. (This is most likely the reason why this hub was flagged for suspicious links.) The companies offer an initial 7 to 30 day FREE trial and often people forget to cancel before the time is up, and then end up getting billed for the service.
By federal law, you are entitled to one FREE credit report PER YEAR. A lot can happen to your credit in a month let alone a year!
Some of these companies monitor credit reports and alert you to unusual activities like new accounts opened in your name.
Most of these companies offer assistance to those who become victims of identity theft, anywhere from giving advice to taking action to help them.
Your bank or credit card may offer an identity protection service for a monthly fee. Others contract with companies to provide assistance to identity theft victims. It is best when choosing a provider that they offer all the services that you prefer and not just one service.
December 2012 note: In the original publishing of this hub August 2012, I had included links but this hub was flagged for links that lead to 'payday loans' which I did not include. Evidently it was the google ads or something you click after you click the credit company links I had provided. So I'm sorry this hub is uninteresting now without the pictures and the links, but the content is what was important.
Theft by internet
A Valuable Tool
They already had our new address information -- I had notified all the credit card companies before we moved because I didn't want our cards refused anywhere during our move from Pennsylvania. I also wanted the bills to come to the new house because I didn't trust the Post Office to forward the thousands of pieces of mail we get weekly.
So, on this phone call, all I had to do with Discover was to update our phone number information and I was given access to our online account again.
But I learned of a valuable tool to use for online purchases that I never knew before and I thought I'd share it with you.
"Discover" How to Be Secure
Disclaimer: Other credit card companies may have a similar service, but the information provided here is just for Discover credit card.
Go to discovercard.com and sign in with your screen name or email and your password. If you do not already have an online account set up, you must register to be able to take advantage of this valuable tool for making purchases online.
After you are signed in, scroll down to the bottom of your account page to where it says: MORE FROM DISCOVER CARD.
Go to the link "Secure Online Account Numbers" and click it.
The next screen will say Protection Solutions. Click "LAUNCH NOW" and a tiny window will appear in your top left corner.
How to get a secure Discover card number - awordlover's personal experience
Enter your user ID and password again. Now make the tiny screen a full screen.
The screen should give you information as to your available amount of credit. Under that, click CREATE SECURE ACCOUNT NUMBER.
Their computer will give you an account number with expiration date and a CID number (those 3 digits on the back of your credit card). This number will not be on your credit card. This is an account number that you can use online for ONE merchant and it will be associated only with that one merchant for any purchases you make up until the expiration date.
If you do business with more than one online merchant using your Discover card, click GENERATE ANOTHER NUMBER. You can do this for up to six merchants. When you are done, click SIGN OUT. You will get a message that you are signed out. Click CLOSE.
You now have a brand new Discover card number to use with an online merchant and if you did all six of them like I did, you have six brand new Discover card numbers to use. Keep track which number you use for which merchant. Each one is good for six months of purchasing at which time you have to 're-up' - do the process over again to be assigned six new card numbers.
All charges go on your main account-- the bill you receive monthly -- and will show which 'secure card number' was used for the purchases. All charges go against the credit limit allowable on your main account.
If I knew then, what I know now....
This method assures you that your physical credit card number will not be given out online because every time you visit that online merchant, you will use this generated credit card number to make purchases.
It is just another way to protect your credit cards online. It is something I wish I knew all these years that I've been buying online....I think it would have saved me the stress of the three incidents I mentioned earlier.
One other note: If your "secure online account number" is ever stolen, it is easier to zero in on the place where it was stolen because you will only have used that number for one merchant. The 'thief' will not be able to use the card number for any other merchant and if they do, it will be flagged as a stolen credit card.
So many online merchants offer that little padlock feature to tell you that your personal and credit card information is secure, yet if they get hacked, it is not so secure anymore.
This is precisely the way my credit card information was stolen - through the online merchants where I used my Discover card.
I now have six "secure" numbers to use with six different merchants that I do business with online. By using them, the 'thief' will never get to my main Discover account to charge at other stores or online merchants because the number can only be used with the merchant I assigned to that secure credit card account. If they happen to like the same store or online merchant that I do, and run up a bill there, that is the only way the secure number can be used, but not at a different merchant.
If you find that need more numbers for more merchants, you only have to follow the procedure I outlined here.
If you don't have a Discover card, check with your credit card company to see if this is a feature they offer. If it isn't, then suggest it.
It is one more tool in our arsenal to protect ourselves against identity theft.
Don't steal my work. I would never steal yours. Thank you!
© Anne DiGeorge, August 14, 2012
Updated 3/17/2014 by Rachael O'Halloran to replace broken links
© 2012 awordlover