Barbara Van Reed
John Zagrocki of Webster used his Capital One business credit card to make a $24 purchase at a local merchant on March 3. He generally uses his Discover credit card for personal purchases, but this particular store didn’t accept that card. So, he used his business card instead. He used that same card again for a purchase on March 7.
Capital One’s fraud alert department called him on March 8 to notify him of possible problems and to verify his recent transactions. The first thing Mr. Zagrocki did was tell the caller that he would call Capital One back, so that he could be confident that indeed this was a legitimate call.
He learned that someone had tried to use his credit card number to make a $2,300 online purchase at Wal-Mart on March 5. The company told him that someone had made three attempts to use his credit card on that day, and had even called Capital One to get help in processing the payment, as apparently the user was missing some information. At the third attempt, Capital One shut down that transaction.
You’ve maybe had a call like that. I have. I’m traveling and my credit card company refuses to authorize a payment. They are being diligent in preventing unauthorized use of a card. They see unusual behavior and flag it. That’s all good, though maddening when you don’t have a back-up credit card with you.
Mr. Zagrocki does not use this particular card often so it was easy to review the transactions; there were only the two he made legitimately and the one fraudulent attempt.
He still had the card in his possession. It had not been stolen. So what happened? Who took the information from his card and tried to use it? He’s been racking his brain and can come up with only one conclusion, that the clerk in the store he made his purchase somehow lifted the information.
He says that one way a clerk may get your card number is during a transaction. After swiping your card, the clerk may ask to see it. He then lays it number side down on a special surface that will make an impression of the numbers. Meanwhile, the clerk can read the three or four letter code on the back of the card. Some store receipts also have your name on it, so that’s all the information the thief may need to know to use the card.
Mr. Zagrocki speculated on the possibility that a store clerk may be being paid by a professional identity fraud perpetrator to obtain the customer names and numbers. He plans to talk to the owner of the store where this may have happened to alert him to that possibility.
There are other ways that someone can steal your credit card information when you have it in your possession, such as with a special storage device when your card is being processed during a transaction, or with a special camera.
Capital One canceled Mr. Zagrocki's credit card and sent him another one. What they cannot do, however, is find out who did it. It’s not their job, they told him. Their function is to protect their customers from fraudulent transactions, not pursue cases of identity theft.
Mr. Zagrocki’s reason for telling us about what happened to him is to warn residents of Webster, Dudley and Oxford to be careful when making credit card purchases. “We read about credit card fraud and always think it won’t happen to us, but it can.” And in his case, it did.
The Federal Trade Commission says that as many as 9 million Americans have their identity stolen every year. The FTC website (www.ftc.gov) has lots of good information about how identity theft occurs and when and how to report it.
- Wednesday, 21 March 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Letter From the Editor