We read about it in the newspapers and hear about it on the evening news all the time. It’s been just a common story line we tend to tune out, especially if it never hits home.
The common line from every single person is always the same: I never thought it would happen to me. This is one of those things that happens to higher profile folks or people who are careless with the phone connections and do lots of online activities with unsavory sites.
Identities and the data encompassing that identity are stolen by cyberthieves by the millions. From federal agencies to Fortune 500 companies, we’ve learned nothing online is safe. When a cyberhacker can break into our government’s most secure sites, it’s only a matter of time until your number comes up.
Well, mine just did. As I opened by my January credit card bill, there it was sticking out like a bright red light on the statement:
YANTAIYZHENGYUANDAJIU SHANDONGYANTA CHN 01/02 YUAN RENMINBI 3.200.00X0.165187500 (EXCHG RATE).
Shockingly, it was only for a few hundred dollars. Perhaps among my charges followed by familiar towns like Elizabethtown, Plattsburgh, Keeseville, Jay or Ticonderoga, they thought we wouldn’t notice.
Upon speaking with the credit card company, their first question was, “Do you have your cards in your possession?” Our response was, “Why yes and we’ve never been to where ever that may be!”
We were not told the location but we were told it was at a hotel and that our card was swiped in person by the person claiming to be me. I would have to think the person using the card looked as out of place with the name Daniel Alexander as the charge did on my statement.
The thieves were capable of putting our information onto their own cards. My greatest surprise was that they didn’t try to max the card out knowing their window of opportunity would be short. Although I have no way of knowing how much data about my wife and I they were able to obtain, my worst days may be just ahead.
Apparently, we were one of the millions of recent card holders who had their data compromised during the recent Christmas shopping season.
We were lucky to have caught it in time and canceled the account. Sadly, I don’t get to the post office box as regularly as I should and even when I do, bills get set aside in the home office until I have time to sit down and deal with them. Both are bad habits that will now be radically altered as I take these events far more personally than I have in the past. In one respect, you feel somewhat helpless. Short of using cash for all purchases, or subscribing to one those identity theft software programs, I fear we’re not immune to being hacked: it’s a crime in this day and age that will continue to become more popular.
While the charges were removed from my responsibility,, we all end up paying the price for the losses absorbed by the credit card companies, banks and the establishments that accepted these payments. The thieves will almost always be one step ahead of technology and with most of these high value crimes being perpetrated from foreign countries, there is little US law enforcement can do as a deterrent.
The best advice is awareness, make each transaction with caution, and regularly check with your credit card company either online or through their automated phone system to review the charges placed on your account and take corrective action quickly should a charge not be recognized as one placed by you or other card holders in your household.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.