I used to think those automated calls from Citibank’s early fraud-detection department were nothing but annoyances. Inevitably, my hubby would be traveling overseas, or in another part of the country, and charges to our credit card would be false positives that set off their alarms, forcing me to call back to verify all his charges.
Last month, though, I received one of those calls, and when I called Citibank back expecting to verify all the charges (coincidentally enough, my husband was traveling at the time), it turned out that their detection system had actually detected something right for once. Someone had managed to get our CC number and had started using it to charge and get authorization for all sorts of miscellaneous services, like signing up for a messaging service in Australia, opening up accounts with UPS and FedEx, an auto transport service, and some other random things.
We still have no idea how they got the number, but my guess is that it must have been from an order we placed on the internet. Yes, I know dumpster diving is the #1 place for getting CC numbers, but we shred all receipts and bills, and the guy (or gal) managed to get our address and a phone number that was close enough in appearance to the one associated with the account that I’m pretty convinced all this information must have come from an order we placed somewhere.
The good news is that the damage has been minimal: most charges didn’t go through thanks to the early fraud-detection service, I cancelled the card immediately, and we signed up for MyFico to monitor any suspicious activity, which thankfully hasn’t happened yet.
Here are some interesting (or random) tidbits I learned from the experience:
- Apparently, signing up for accounts with UPS and FedEx is common practice for credit card thieves. An authorization of a few bucks lets the person figure out whether the card is still valid or not, as well as set up accounts that are useful to them.
- We had to call UPS and FedEx to get those fraudlent accounts closed and flagged, but for whatever reason, the person who opened the account was still able to rack up $1,000 and $300 in overnight shipping fees with each company by overnighting envelopes to a bunch of different recipients and addresses. We then received the invoices at our address. The FedEx rep I spoke to said these accounts are usually used to send stolen travelers, though I’m not sure what the purpose of that would be, exactly. (Use them fast enough before people realize they’re stolen and cancel them?) The only hitch is that we still have to call UPS and FedEx whenever an invoice arrives, just to keep them from sending more of them.
- If you rack up fradulent charges with Citibank, they will send you an affidavit to fill out to dispute any charges. But this document must be notarized (which can cost anything from nothing to $20). In our case, we paid $10 for a notary public to dispute a charge of $14.95. A bit annoying, but then again, things could have been a lot worse.
- I guess it’s good to use virtual account numbers when buying stuff from the internet, especially when buying from merchants that we’re unfamiliar with.
Anyway, no more ranting about Citibank’s early fraud detection service for me!