Tag Archives: credit card

Unsolicited credit cards: What to do with them and who is “offering” them

Do you always open all your mail?   Or do you get busy and assume that it’s junk mail or just another credit card offer?  Today I saw a news cast on one very good reason why you should always open your mail and read the fine print.

10TV.com reported on a Columbus, Ohio man who recently opened his mail to find, not just a credit card offer, but a credit card.  A credit card that he never asked for or completed an application for.   But here it is.

Reading through the letter that accompanied his brand new Discover Card he finds out that his particular membership at Sam’s Club includes a Discover Card, unless you “opt -out” either when registering your Sam’s Club membership or when sent a letter which let’s you know you were approved and your credit card is on its way.

Sam’s Club is not the only store that offers this type of “service.”  Macy’s customers found that they had become the not so proud owners of Citibank MasterCards.   Apparently, 3.5 million Macy’s customers were issued the Citibank MasterCard that they could use anywhere, since they were already users (in same cases even inactive users0 of the Macy’s store credit card.  JC Penny, Sears, and Target have also performed a similar service.

Isn’t receiving an unsolicited credit card against the many credit card laws that are meant to protect consumers?   Continue reading Unsolicited credit cards: What to do with them and who is “offering” them

Is the United States getting “smart” about credit cards?

So what happens when the United States lags behind in credit card technology?  Does it really matter if the rest of the industrialized world is now using credit cards with chips instead of magnetic strips?  Well, it does matter if you’re an overseas traveler.
As other countries have already adopted credit cards with chips and are done with or at least transitioning out credit cards with magnets, not all places abroad even have a “swipe” machine for magnetic strip credit cards, including places like train kiosk.  In other places, businesses use both but U.S. travelers have been learning that cashiers are often very unfamiliar with how to use the seemingly obsolete machines.
The smart cards, called EVM cards, have an encrypted chip to tighten security.  This EVM was a joint project of Visa, MasterCard and Europay.
Wells Fargo gave out 15,000 credit cards with chips earlier this year and reports that the response for international travelers was a huge success.  Wells Fargo says they plan to offer more chip embedded credit cards for travelers.  U.S. Bank also gave 20,000 select travel rewards customers smart cards this year as well.

Slow down! That’s not a real traffic ticket it’s a scam

With the use of cameras at lights it is not unheard of to get a traffic ticket in the mail.  I admit, I recently received one, including a really bad photo) as I went through a light, lost and looking for signs.  My first in over 15 years, but that’s beside the point. However, there’s a new scam in town coming to your straight from your email.  This email message claims to be a traffic ticket from New York and it directs you to “click” the link to open your ticket, see your charges and find out how to pay the fine.   At first glance it looks “legit.”  It even has a return address @nyc.gov.

There are a great many people who would fear that somehow they got notice of a traffic ticket, whether they have driven in New York or not.  Maybe they sent it to you because of a data entry mistake on the driver’s license input.  What if they suspend your license? But before you panic stop and think about these things.

Have you driven in New York?

How on earth did they track your email address by your driver’s license?


Could this possibly be a scam?

The answer to the third question is yes, it is a scam.  But not the type you might think.  Instead of a “spam” scam which most likely would be trying to harvest your credit card number for credit card fraud it’s actually a Trojan, a hidden virus that will gather information from your computer and drop more malicious content. This virus is  identified as “Troj/Invo-Zip and it is described as one ” that could allow attackers access to your Windows system and give them the ability to drop more malicious files on it.

Internet security firm Sophos received many messages today on their Facebook page about the email scam/virus from all over the world.  I think it’s safe to say anyone that received it in Thailand is just going to ignore it.

How can you be safe from viruses and email scams?  Remember just because a link is there doesn’t mean you have to “click” it especially when it is a fake ticket.   Keep your antivirus programs updated and but the brakes on email scams by simply not opening them.


Debt collectors gone wild

No one likes the term debt collector, but most of us have encountered one or two along the way no matter how careful we are about paying our bills.  But then again some encounter them along the way because they don’t pay there bills, so they do have a place in this world.  But what they don’t have is the right to threaten, coerce, violate your privacy, or intimidate.  Don’t think it could happen?  Here is a prime example.

The Washington Post recently published “Debt collectors harassed consumers with violent threats, FTC says” and here are just a few of the things these debt collectors gone bad have allegedly done:

  • “one firm threatening to kill debtors’ pets or desecrate the bodies of their deceased children”
  • After being unable to pay the bill for her daughter’s funeral one woman was told that they would “dig up her daughter’s body and hang it from a tree.”
  • According to this report by the FTC one company being investigated  made  “bogus threats,” and  “portrayed themselves to the consumers – and even to the consumers’ employers and neighbors – as process servers trying to deliver legal papers. The company unjustly profited from the deception, making at least $9.4 million, the FTC said.”
  • One woman was called a “deadbeat” and “asked how she would feel if her son’s body was dug up and dropped outside her door.”
  • Yet another complaint is that the debt collection companies disclosed information to the debtors employers, employees, co-workers and neighbors.
Shocking?  Yes, absolutely, but anyone who has spent any time with more active debt collectors on the phone knows that there are quite a few threats and intimidation tactics used.  Are they allowed?
To find out your rights as a consumer:
Privacy Rights.org offers this Fact Sheet about When debt collection practices go too far. 
Has a debt collector every gone “too far” when contacting you?
Here’s a recent example of debt collectors gone wild as investigated by ABC News.

First Person: My experience with credit card fraud and theft

I had a chance to talk to someone first hand how a credit card theft affected their life.  Find out what she did to find who did what and how and what she did to get the money back.

Here’s single parent/freelance writer Amy’s story:

Recently, I got my credit card numbers stolen online and the thief used it to charge almost $300 worth of flowers and subscriptions. I used to think that identity theft only happened to those people who went on risky sites and should have known better.  Now I know better.

I have used online banking since 2001, and have never had a problem with someone out of my household using the card for unauthorized purchases. It simply goes to show that everyone is at risk.

I am a single mom and have been for years. In 2007, I began working as a freelance writer to support my three children and myself. My ‘paycheck’ comes from an assortment of websites and funnels into an online banking place. Typically, it stays on the card so I can pay the bills that I need to pay.

I noticed some money missing and I began to question my kids. Sometimes they use the card but they always put the money back. They never borrow much, so when I saw hundreds of dollars missing, I got very mad.

Continue reading First Person: My experience with credit card fraud and theft

Identity theft makes strange bedfellows

Swiper no swiping!  This story of identity theft reminds me of the story where “Dora the Explorer” traveled around the work to share her friendship bracelets and encountered a number of thieves in every country that were trying to steal her friendship bracelets.  Okay, yes I have children but when you hear the details about what is being called the largest identity theft bust of its kind in the United States you may see the similarities.

Reports of 111 suspects, including 25 people that are being sought in connection for these crimes were targeted for their involvement in “Operation Swiper.”  While arrested by authorities in New York, this identity theft ring came from across the globe with connections to Russia, India, China, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.  Their take was approximately 13 million dollars stolen from victims in Europe and the United States.  Queens County District Attorney calls it “called it the largest and perhaps most sophisticated ring of its kind in U.S. history.”

How did Operation Swiper work?

“The schemes and the imagination of these thieves is mind boggling,” said New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly at a press conference.  “These crimes are getting more sophisticated and thieves have amazing knowledge of how to use technology.” Continue reading Identity theft makes strange bedfellows

How much credit card security is too much?

Fox Business recently published an article on “How to avoid credit card security overkill.”  And I started wondering how much security was too much?  This article mentions:

“Refusing to give your credit card to a waiter.”

Is this security or silly?  I admit that in our household we prefer to operate on a cash basis when it comes to going out to dinner, but that is a personal finance decision not a security issue.  The fear that some credit card users may have is that a waiter could “skim” the credit card number and create clones.   However, the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association director of media relations for Annika Stensson,  says to relax. “Like every other merchant, they must comply with standards, and those requirements have double and triple security,” says Stensson. Restaurants “don’t store PIN data, the point-of-sale (POS) systems are customized, and they don’t use passwords.” Bad eggs are weeded out, too. “It’s in the best interest of restaurants to keep transactions safe since they rely on repeat customers,” says Stensson, stressing that owners and managers aren’t afraid to press criminal charges against thieves.”

I was wondering how many of you think twice about giving your credit card to a waiter.

Next it discusses “Not purchasing anything online.”

Does this really happen?  I admit my mother doesn’t like to, but I think it’s because she hates computers, and yes does distrust most places security measures.  But oddly enough, she pays her bills online.  There are many benefits to shopping online, as long as you do it safely.  Use reputable stores, like the brick and mortar ones that have gone into the virtual world and look for the “S” or TRUSTe symbol to indicate security on the site.  As identitytheftsecrets has warned before, never give out your credit card information in an email.

(What’s in your email? Could it be your credit card number?) Continue reading How much credit card security is too much?

The CARD Act: College Student Consumer Protection or a Card Trick?

7 Tricks YOU Will Have to Teach Your College Student

The CARD Act refers to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009.  In a nut shell, the act was intended to protect college students from unscrupulous practices that ended up weighing down college students with debt that they had no way to repay.  That pizza they charged for $11.99 freshman would incur interest, and interest on the interest, not to mention late fees until they owed a couple hundred bucks on the pepperoni and cheese by their junior year.

What were the ground rules for credit card companies laid out by the Credit CARD Act?

The Act placed limits on the ability of those under the age 21 to get a credit card.  Or another way to look at it is that it limited the credit card company’s abilities to issue credit cards to college students under 21.

Credit card companies can no longer issue cards to students who cannot prove an income that allows them to repay the charges.  Other than this, college students will have to have a co-signer.  For college students, that means someone else to hold them accountable for their credit card debt and for credit card companies it means someone else to go after for the debt.

A new report released by the Federal Reserve does show some curtailing that can likely be correlated to the CARD Act. Payments to colleges and alumni associations made by credit card companies for the privilege of marketing to students or alumnus were down by 13% in 2010 and also after a year the total of new accounts opened by students dropped 17%.  It’s certainly a start.  Issuing credit cards to college students is still big business though because colleges raked in $73 million last year from credit card issuers.

Here are 7 things every college student should know about money, credit, debt and identity theft Continue reading The CARD Act: College Student Consumer Protection or a Card Trick?

Who can check out your credit card balance and history?

Just who can check out your credit card balance, recent purchases and payment history?  Only you, of course, unless someone is “spoofing” you.

What is spoofing?

Spoofing is a service for a fee that allows people to make phone calls that appear to be from someone/somewhere else. Is this legal?  Well that depends on your purpose.  There are some legit reasons to use a spoofing service.  Doctors who want to call patients from their cell phone but protect their private number, parents calling a child that is ignoring phone calls from them or victims of domestic abuse that need to protect their whereabouts all seem to have legit cause for using a spoofing service.

In 2010, President Obama signed the Truth in Caller ID Act prohibiting knowingly using spoofing services to defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value. There is a fine is up to $10,000 for a single incident.

Many people have used spoofing services for pranks but there is an even scarier risk with spoofing.  Many banks automated call in systems are programmed to recognized your phone number as a step one in verifying your identity.

Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org says in a press release,

“The trouble with this system is that hackers, crooks, suspicious spouses, or nosy neighbors can access your credit card information using the same method the reporters from the British tabloid used to break into subjects’ voicemail accounts,” but “this is far more serious, however, since consumers’ financial information and privacy are at risk.”

Dworsky and New York Times reporter Ron Lieber tested the feasibility of accessing people’s bank information with just a small amount of information through an automated system at two banks, Bank of America and Chase.

The results?  They were able to access information every time at Chase and had success at Bank of America too, even though he was occasionally denied access.  Bank of America even shared the names of specific merchants where purchases were made.

What can you do to protect yourself?

-shred credit card receipts that have some of the information on them needed to access your account

-keep access to your credit card statements and or online statements secure

-always protect your social security number

-don’t offer up your birth date on social network sites

There wasn’t an apparent risk for accessing funds but there was substantial risk for accessing information.  Which begs the question, how would you feel if your ex-spouse, co-worker or neighbor was taping your personal financial information?

New IRS reporting system affects PayPal accounts

Businesses that process payments through credit cards, debit cards or payment merchants like PayPal beware.  The IRS has a new reporting system and surprise, surprise, according to a Treasury Department audit released July 26, 2011 the system that includes “a revised form” that may be flawed. Imagine that?

In 2008 the enacted Housing and Economic Recovery Act legislated requirements for banks and other merchant services like PayPal to report annual gross payments processed by credit or debit cards or accounts to the IRS and to merchants.

So where’s the beef?

The TIGTA audit found that a newly revised form may not facilitate matches between what merchants report and what payment processors report.  To make matters worse, there’s mandatory back up withholding involved and the fear is that with the great volume of reporting this new system requires, mismatches may be unresolved when mandatory withholding kicks in. Continue reading New IRS reporting system affects PayPal accounts