By Pam Walkley,
, October 2008
I never thought I would be a victim of identity fraud. I shred documents that contain personal information, pick up new cards etc from my bank branch rather than let them be mailed, monitor my accounts online several times a week – the list goes on.
But on a recent sunny Sunday while I was enjoying a leisurely catch-up lunch with friends, someone stole my identity. Armed with a copy of my credit card this person went on a spending spree, racking up $11,265.25 in five separate transactions at two major stores in the Sydney CBD.
Late Sunday afternoon my bank, NAB, called my husband, the main cardholder on our account, to ask if I had been in the city spending up big on electronic gear.
No, was the answer. Did I have my credit card? Yes, there it was safe and sound in my wallet – I had not even used it to pay for my share of the lunch!
My card had been skimmed, possibly when I travelled to New Zealand earlier this year, the bank told my husband. I racked my brains and yes, I did let the card be carried off by a waiter in an upmarket restaurant. The waiter was very chatty, wanting to know all about where I lived in Australia! So what happens next? Well, the bank instructed us to cut up our cards, assuring us new ones would be available within the week.
We were also told the transactions would be reversed, but this might take about a month.
Just why is that? Well of course the bank does need to check that the signatures on those five sales dockets are indeed not mine. The bank’s line is that there are various transactions still under investigation by the fraud team.
But I must say I feel very uncomfortable with that considerable debt sitting on my new credit card account every time I go online and look at my bank accounts. What will happen if it has not been reversed by the time I am due to pay my balance?
I only want to pay my legitimate balance (indeed could not afford to pay the entire balance) and I do not want to be charged interest and go to all the trouble of getting it reversed. The bank says I will not be out of pocket in the end (stay tuned). I feel like a victim, not just because some crook skimmed my card and made a copy and raided my account, but also because I have had to waste a lot of time and energy after the event, worrying about all these details.
This got me thinking. Do I really need a credit card? I certainly do not need one with a high credit limit I never use. If only the cheat had known, she – I presume it was a woman who stole my identity – could have spent double what they did.
And I have decided that I will only accept a new card with chip technology, which is much harder to counterfeit than my old card which had a signature-based magnetic strip. These are now the dinosaurs of credit cards and practically obsolete in Europe and the UK.
The chip, which stores all the data, makes the card harder to copy. Combined with a pin, rather than a signature, these cards offer enhanced security. And because I have to enter a pin when I use the card I am much less likely to forget one of the golden rules – never let your card out of your sight, even in high-class restaurants. And one new golden rule I will need to remember is to shield my pin from view when I enter it, so it cannot be filmed.
For more on what to do to protect your identity, pick up this month’s issue of Money.
Money Magazine's October 2008 issue is out now. Subscribe now.
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