Credit Cards

Strange Case of Credit Card Fraud

In this day and age, credit card fraud and identity theft has become inevitable. I’m sure all of you either know someone who’s been a victim of identity theft, or you’ve experienced it yourself. Sometimes it’s a full on assault – someone gets a hold of your SSN, opens up a ton of credit cards, and you’re left to clean up a hell of a mess. Other times it’s an unauthorized charge that is quickly taken care of by your credit card issuer. Usually this happens when someone gets a hold of your credit card number and the charges are made with an online merchant.

I’ve had two different cases of fraud happen to my family in the past year and still don’t understand how it could have happened. Today, I logged into my brother’s Chase account to make sure a payment I’d made at a branch had posted. It did, but I saw something peculiar in the activity section. Three days ago, someone made two charges at Walmart for $51.49…in Riverdale, Georgia. In addition to these two charges, there was another one at the same Walmart for $53.01 and one at Kroeger’s Fuel in the same town for $54.

My brother has never been to Riverdale, and especially not in the past three days when he’s been cramming for exams and writing papers. I asked if he had lost his card, but he didn’t. It was in his wallet all along. I don’t know how thiefs are managing to use credit cards at physical locations without having the actual credit card on hand, but this isn’t the first time this happened. Last year a fraud alert was placed on my Citi AAdvantage card over a couple of charges at a liquor store (over $200) and one at Walmart (can’t remember the exact amount, but it was high). Once again, the card was in my wallet and I try not to buy anything at Walmart unless it’s a money order. So how did this person manage to use my card when I had it with me? I suggest you all keep an eye on your balance and check it often. I think it’s very smart of the thiefs to keep the charges at the $50 mark, since those are less likely to alert credit card companies or even card users.

Has anything like this happened to you? If anyone has any insight into how a scam like this can be carried out at actual stores without the card on hand, please share below.

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  1. Something similar happened to me with Walmart. A few years ago somehow the fraud unit alerted me that someone bought stuff at Walmart online and it was being shipped to Miami. I told the fraud dept that I don’t know anyone in Miami and I didn’t make the charge. The charge never hit my account.

    • Sounds like these thieves have a Walmart fetish in common. Walmart probably makes it really easy for them to get away with it.

  2. Someone actually bought a ticket on Delta on my delta plat card. One that I could have easily overlooked. Have no idea how they got my number and there was only one fraudulent charge. Thankfully, Amex was great and I had a new card in a couple days.

  3. We had a call from Chase fraud line that there were 2 or 3, don’t remember, charges on one of our cards at gas stations in the next state over. They asked if I knew where my cards were. My wife and I were sitting in a restaurant across from each other with our cards in our wallets.
    We heard after that crooks could clone cards if they had the number. Don’t know if its true but how else do you make a $75 charge for fuel at a gas station?

  4. I just had the same thing happen to me with my United Chase Visa. Luckily Chase called me right away to alert me of the several $150 fuel purchase attempts on my credit card in PA and MD….and I live in CA. They told me someone actually used a hard copy of my card and that there was a new tactic that thieves are using called ‘swiping’ where they gather all the info on your CC by swiping it in an illegal machine, then to make counterfeit copies of your CC. The most common purchases seem to be gas and food. They said the swiping occurs when you let your CC out of your sight for just a few minutes, I.e. a resteraunt. They recommended actually walking your CC up to pay and not letting it out of your sight.

  5. I saw a news report that a lot of credit card fraud comes out of Florida, Georgia, New York and California. That was true in my case: someone in Florida charged an $8,000 flight to one of my credit cards–and I don’t live there. Luckily, my bank flagged it right away and called me. They closed the account, canceled all the fraudulent charges (I didn’t have to pay anything), and they express-mailed me a new card that arrived two days later.

    Like your other readers, I was confused about how my credit card could be “stolen” when it was still in my wallet! I got really interested in this subject, and have done a lot of research. The basic idea is that these identity thieves steal the credit card information, and manufacture clone credit cards that work like the real things.

    Here are two great articles about hackers who’ve done credit card on a massive scale. You’ll learn a lot about how these crime rings work.

    “The Great Cyberheist” — On the New York Times website. Excerpt:

    “Gonzalez was especially intrigued by the possibilities of a technique known as“war driving”: hackers would sit in cars or vans in the parking lots of big-box stores with laptops and high-power radio antennae and burrow through companies’ vulnerable WiFi networks. Adepts could get into a billion-dollar multinational’s servers in minutes.”

    “One Hacker’s Audacious Plan to Rule the Black Market in Stolen Credit Cards” — On the Wired magazine website.

    This hacker Max Butler started off by hacking into small regional banks, then graduated to hacking the illegal underground forums where hackers bought and sold stolen credit card numbers. The writer of the article expanded the story into a book called “Kingpin.”

    The TV show “American Greed” did an episode on Max Butler, it’s on YouTube. In one segment, they interview an FBI agent who says that you don’t actually have to be a computer genius to do credit card fraud. You can buy blank credit cards and card-encoding machines off Ebay. Instead of breaking into bank systems, you can buy stolen credit card numbers off other hackers in underground websites. He made it sound frighteningly easy to do.

    I’m planning to do a video about my experience with identity theft and tips on how to prevent it. I’d be happy to come back later and post a comment with the YouTube link, if you’d like.

    • Sounds insane. If all that ingenuity was channeled towards something positive (and legal), those guys would make a fortune…without having to steal it.

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