Techno Thieves

Someone stole $800 out of my checking account and I want it back! Now. But it’s gonna take around two weeks according to the bank.
I admit it, I don’t check my bank balance everyday online….and sometimes weeks go by without doing the numbers. But a couple of days ago I logged on to Wells Fargo and discovered that just twenty minutes earlier, someone had charged $800 to my account, using my atm/credit card, which seemed impossible, because it was sitting snugly in my wallet at the time. I called the bank, they cancelled the card and told me the charge was to a jewelry firm downtown. They would investigate…. which they are doing. The biggest question I have is…. how did the thieving scoundrels get my card numbers, expiration date, name AND the computer strip on the back that sends transactions to the bank? It must be quite an operation. I’m assuming it was copied by some restaurant employee in town and sold to the hackers who then clean up. That’s the only place I use that card except at the bank.
I guess I’m lucky because I caught it so fast… but I wonder how widespread this is in town?

10 Replies to “Techno Thieves”

  1. In addition to physical possesion of the card, it could have been stolen through some sort of data breach. If some bank or merchant database which has your account info was compromised, it could have come from there. Literally every week I see stories about these data breaches, whether from schools, merchants, banks, or the government.

    Though the laws are in flux, I think the way things currently stand is that you don’t have to be notified of the data breach unless the database owner believes the data is being used. The banks and CC companies argued in favor of this “only if we think it’s being used” provision to avoid unnecessary concern by their customers.

  2. From KABC:

    Identity Theft in Los Angeles County Continues to Soar

    LOS ANGELES, September 21, 2006 – Identity theft in Los Angeles County soared to more than 25,000 cases last year and is on pace to surge even more this year as one of the region’s fastest-growing crimes, it was reported Thursday.

    The volume has overwhelmed investigators, who say they can investigate only about 10 percent of the cases, the Daily News reported.
    “The size of our task force is not large enough to handle the volume of cases,” sheriff’s Lt. Ron Williams, who leads multi-agency Southern California task forces on high-tech crimes and identity theft, said.

    Teresa Schilling, spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s Office, said that investigative resources statewide are being taxed by the skyrocketing number of cases.

    “What a lot of law enforcement officials are saying is that they have a threshold of $2,000 in losses before they investigate,” Schilling told the newspaper. “A lot of thieves know that. They will take someone’s credit card information, charge under $2,000, then take out another credit card and charge under $2,000, so they never get caught.”

    The Sheriff’s Department alone received 6,132 reports of identity theft last year, up tenfold from just 645 reports in 1999, according to the Daily News, and department officials expect 6,144 reports this year.

    The ID-theft caseload in the District Attorney’s Office has skyrocketed from zero in 1997 to 1,515 cases last year.

    In the past six months, the High Tech Crime Unit in the District Attorney’s Office has prosecuted 270 people for ID theft, computer crimes and related fraud. But despite extensive overtime, all of the unit’s prosecutors have case overloads, officials said.

  3. This happened to me a few months back. But they actually got my pin number and where making ATM withdrawels at 7-11 stores all throughout so cal. I was on vacation at the time so I wasn’t paying attention. I only realized once I tried to take money out that it said I was at my daily withdrawel limit.

    The person at the bank said more than likely it happened at some shady gas station location, where I used the ATM to get cash, they record your card number and pin number as you use the machine, they then sell it to card counterfiters.

    They immediatly deposted the money back into my account, all in all, almost 1k. Pending investigation of course, although I never did hear what happened. The person who used my card had to be caught on camera at those 7-11 stores.

  4. Tammara,

    The most important thing you should do right away is call Experian or one of the other two big bad credit companies and tell them you have had an identity theft (well, it’s usually through some automated system – you don’t actually talk to anyone). Whichever company you call will notify the other two, so you just have to call one.

    This is important for many reasons, but the biggest is that new credit card applications will not be mailed to you for a certain length of time (I forget, maybe 2 years). One way that identity thieves can really make your life miserable is by calling a credit card company, convincing them that they are you, and changing your address to their address. That address change eventually percolates up to the big 3 credit companies. When Capitol One or whoever wants to send you a promotion for a new credit card with a snappy interest rate, they get your name and address from one of the big 3. So if the thieves can get you address changed, they just have to wait, and eventually all those annoying credit card promotions that you get in the mail will start coming to them, they fill out all the applications, and before you know it, they have tons of credit cards in your name. Plus cell phones and other horrible stuff.

    If you call one of the big 3 credit companies and inform them of the identity theft, they will prevent any new credit card applications from being mailed out at all, no matter who asks for them.

  5. Oren, your advice is a little confused.

    What you are mostly thinking of is “opting out”. The FTC has a page describing this here:
    http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/optoutalrt.htm

    While a good thing to do, this doesn’t really do much for identity theft – if they’ve got your information, the theives don’t need the physical card application that gets mailed to you.

    You are right that calling the credit bureaus is a good thing, but not because of opting out. There’s a separate thing called a “fraud alert”, which the FTC describes here:
    http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/con_steps.htm#fraud

    Practically speaking, the fraud alert means you get a phone call before any new credit is extended to you (applying for department store cards is no longer instant, etc…). Personally, I think its a good thing to do in general to protect yourself….

    In this specific case, though, it doesn’t seem like identity theft is involved, just someone got your CC# (probably a waiter), and wrote it onto a different card. Magstripe writers aren’t that hard to come by.

  6. all good advice….. it’s just one more irritating thing to deal with. I hadn’t thought of calling the credit bureaus…. but I’ve read that the whole thing of opting out and doing a fraud alert are good things to do in general to protect oneself. Thanks for the feedback. It’s always shocking when these things happen.

  7. Yes, Sam, thanks for the clarification. When I had my info stolen I did a bunch of things to protect myself and forgot where I did what. You are correct about what the credit companies do – they call you if someone (incl. you) applies for a credit card. This is a Good Thing.

  8. I have “opted out” of every possible situation and I still get a shitload of credit card/new mortgage applications every week.

    And I have never EVER had a credit card company call me when I applied for a card. Seems like an identity thief applying for a card would give HIS number, not yours, anyway, so them calling to verify that you’re you won’t help anything because they’re not calling you.

  9. Ruth,

    Once you call one of the credit bureaus and report a fraud, the phone number they have on file for you is the one they call when a credit card is applied for.

    And the system worked for me – a few months after my info was stolen, I applied for a card at Pier 1, and they refused to approve it at the store – I had to wait until someone called me.

  10. Credit card thefts are no wonder these days. People are getting into ingenius ways of doing fraud and I heard that random credit no. generators are also used. May God punish those idiots.

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