MONIQUE BATSON — Convenience of paying with card comes with risks

Published 12:04 am Sunday, April 3, 2022

I’ve been writing about internet scams since the days of dial-up. And I’ve been through so many company-mandated security training courses, it practically belongs on my resume.

Don’t open attachments from email addresses you don’t recognize. Beware of credit card skimmers on fuel pumps and ATM machines. The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t call you. And you shouldn’t click the link to reset your password if you didn’t request it.

But it was the one thing I do often without a second thought that cost me. A lot.

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Monday during lunchtime I was driving between assignments and stopped at a fast food drive-thru to grab food. It’s a place I visit often, so I know the credit card reader is right next to the window.

The cashier took my card, scanned it and then walked away. It was about two minutes before they returned with my card (but no food yet), and immediately launched into a random story about having difficulty with filing their taxes.

It seemed extremely out of place, and I became hyper aware of the fact that I had just handed that person my debit card.

As often as I use it over the phone or online, I know you can purchase just about anything as long as you have that three-digit code on the back. And sometimes you don’t even need that.

But I just shook off the thought, left, and went about my business.

Later that evening I stopped at a convenience store and my card was denied. I dismissed that as well, since it’s not uncommon for my credit union to shut down a card if there is a suspicious purchase. It was shut off the minute I tried using it at a soda machine in Orlando, but in all fairness, charging someone $4 for a bottle of Coke should be criminal.

After my card was denied Monday, I switched to a credit card and thought, “no problem, I’ll just call the credit union in the morning.” I checked my bank account through the app on my phone and noticed an odd charge of $200 that was attributed to somewhere in Port Arthur, but I couldn’t make out where. I assumed this was what flagged my card. But again, I’d sort it out Tuesday.

By the next morning, there was about $400 in unauthorized charges to my account.

The payment I didn’t recognize the night before was seemingly to a local hotel, although it’s unclear. Someone ordered Chinese food to be delivered through a service I don’t use. A MetroPCS phone bill was paid, as was a utility bill. And after the card was cut off, the person using it continued attempts through Uber, Facebook, and also tried adding money to the commissary account of an inmate.

While at the credit union sorting through which charges were and were not authorized, I learned all of the fraudulent charges were done without use of the physical card.

I took the paperwork to the police department and filed a report, and thankfully the credit union is reimbursing the charges. But I am extremely paranoid now about using my card anywhere for anything.

While people rarely carry cash these days, I would highly recommend you have some on you for situations that would otherwise require handing a credit or debit card to a stranger.

 

Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at monique.batson@panews.com.