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Card Fraud Happens to Everyone

After many uneventful years and diligent care of my data, I got hit with a card fraud, and a rather big one. One of my cards I use primarily for travel—it helps me keep expenses in one place and easily track them. Due to the limited use, I typically just pay the balance without much thought. Yes, I know I should be reviewing the transactions, especially as it is primarily a travel card, but we don’t all follow our own advice.

I went in over the weekend to pay all my balances, and one stood out—my travel card balance was far larger than expected, as I hadn’t traveled much in the last few weeks. Going in to the transactions, there were US$800 transactions every two weeks or so from “AMERICAN INSTITUTE,” which I had never heard of before. A quick Google search led to a lot of results, but nothing I could recognize.

All in all, the total of the fraud exceeded US$6,000 over more than 2 months. While I was reimbursed for most of the charges, my lack of oversight meant I did have to take a small hit on some older transactions. I had just blindly paid my balance, since it looked reasonable.

Lessons learned:

  • Be especially diligent with cards that are used for a single purpose or used less frequently. Criminals love to load these accounts with recurring charges, large and small, that just don’t get noticed.
  • Look for any outliers such as higher-than-expected balances or recurring payments that don’t match up to known subscriptions.
  • Check the transaction history, even if balances seem within range. It just takes a few minutes to scroll through and look for anything that is out of the ordinary. Sometimes the history will have a different name or location, but one can still recognize the transaction as legitimate. Unrecognizable names can be a clue, and a little Google searching can help uncover where the transaction came from.
  • Call the bank. Use the number on the back of the card and tell the agent you’re reporting a fraud. If possible, have the transaction history open on the screen while speaking to an agent. You can then go through the transactions together to identify the fraudulent ones.

Other relevant Aite Group reports and blog posts include the following: