It was just after 8 am when my phone rang, the caller ID giving a toll-free number that I did not recognize. Usually, it's a robo-call, and no message is left. This time, however, there was a voice message, and I didn't like what it said. Obviously, my debit card was used in another country.

"This is (financial institution) Fraud Prevention Services calling.  We need to verify some recent activity on your debit card."

Oh boy.

I called the number, went through a very quick verification process, and was on the phone with a live person in about 30 seconds.  A real person, not a robot!

Each transaction in question was gone over  with me and, after realizing that ALL of the charges in question were fraudulent, the Fraud Prevention Expert emailed a Fraudulent Charges Dispute Form. Within minutes I had the form completed and returned (electronically) to the financial institution.

They assured me that my funds will be back in my account by COB tomorrow.

I know, I am one of the lucky ones. I am lucky that it wasn't a larger amount of money. I am lucky that I have a financial institution that is "good" at taking care of this kind of thing.

When asked where they may have gotten my information, he told me that the number of "skimmers" at gas stations and ATMs in Louisiana is on the rise, as are "pocket skimmers": the kind that can pick up your information from your wallet or purse.

With all the good that technology has brought to the world, there, unfortunately, will always be someone evil who will find a way to use it to their advantage.

Protect your information. When you fill up, use cash if possible and, when you DO use your card at the pump, check the card reader for signs of tampering.

People's Bank & Trust provides the following tips for helping prevent card fraud:

  • Check your bank statements immediately.  Make sure all payments are yours.
  • Periodically check your account balance and transactions, by utilizing online banking, by telephone, or by printing interim statements at the ATM.
  • Contact your bank immediately if your card is lost, stolen or subject to fraudulent use.
  • Keep a record of card numbers, PINs, expiration dates and 1-800 numbers for banks so you can contact the issuing bank easily in cases of theft.
  • Memorize your PIN number.  Do not use your birth date, address, phone number or social security number.  Never store your PIN with your card, and do not make it available to others.
  • Mark through any blank spaces on debit slips, including the tip line at restaurants, so the total amount cannot be changed.
  • Know your limits.  Many issuers limit daily purchases and withdrawals for your protection.
  • Do not use an ATM if it looks suspicious, it could be a skimming device.
  • Do not give your PIN number to anyone over the phone, often thieves steal the cards and then call the victim for their PIN, sometimes claiming to be law enforcement or the issuing bank.

Again, I know that I am lucky that I didn't get hit harder than I did, and I am glad my financial institution was on the ball!


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