Protecting Your Identity From Theft
Everything I’ve Learned This Week
“A lot of credit card theft happens at the gas station so never pay at the pump. Always go inside because they can take your information from the pump.”
That’s what the guy who stole $7k from me this past week said.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about and missed my stories, let me start from the top.
Maverick was sitting on my lap and we were practicing her letters when my phone rang. My caller ID read: Bank of America. I hit mute and put my phone down, not wanting to talk to anyone at that moment. Then the stupid voice in my head told me maybe I should answer because something might be wrong. I should have listened to the introverted me because then I wouldn’t be in this situation.
I answered and the man identified himself as a BOA employee, I don’t remember what he said his “name” was, and told me that my card was being used in Colorado and had been declined at a Walmart and a Target for a few hundred dollars. He said that I hadn’t notified the bank in regards to any traveling so they flagged the card. I confirmed that I had not been using the card and as I was saying that I started getting 5 text messages confirming I had sent several thousand dollars to “Mercedes Sanders”.
The man on the phone said that someone was trying to use my bank account to transfer money to themselves and he was going to stop it before the transfer was processed because once it did Zelle does not issue refunds. So in that moment, he was creating a sense of urgency and panic to try to distract me from minor details that would help me determine that this was a scam.
It worked at first. I was thanking him so much for catching this and helping to get my money back. He said he was going to cancel my bank cards and issue new ones back to me to help prevent this from happening again. As someone who has dealt with my credit card number being stolen, this is all text book.
He then sent a code to my phone and asked me to read it back to him so that he could cancel the wire transfer. What he was ACTUALLY doing was logging into my bank account with that code and changing my name to “Mercedes Sanders” and changing his bank account to “Jessica Nickson”.
(If this all sounds confusing, it’s supposed to. This was a very well thought out scheme.)
He was transferring money from my bank account to him with me on the phone. The second I saw money start to disappear from my account, all the alarms in my head started going off. He tried using long winded, big worded vocabulary to try to explain what was happening and keep me distracted while he continued to steal from me.
I told him I was driving to my bank around the corner to get answers. He told me to google the number he was calling from to prove that it was the actual bank customer service number. It was. But that didn’t make me feel better. He then verified my name, home address, phone number, email and full social security number. This threw me into full blown panic mode because he shouldn’t be able to do that.
At that point I arrived at the bank and the guy hung up right away. My bank confirmed it wasn’t them calling and that it was all a scam. We’re now in the process of an investigation and there’s very little hope in finding the jerk or getting my money back.
This was definitely one of those, “it’ll never happen to me” situations and I’m retelling this story in hopes to save you from living a nightmare because having your money, identity, SSN stolen is extremely violating and it’s a very difficult problem to fix.
The few days I spoke about it on Instagram my inbox was FLOODED with stories that you have all gone through and I don’t think any of us realize how common it really is. Almost everyone has their own similar story to mine and law enforcement doesn’t do enough to stop it! It’s appalling. There are individuals out there who have made it their careers to just steal money from people and they don’t give a rats behind how much or how little you have. They’re going to steal it from you.
Luckily, there’s things we can do to stop it. So here’s what I’ve learned:
- Tell your story! Once I told mine, so many of my friends told me there’s and I had no idea they had ever gone through something similar. It’s almost like we take the fault and feel ashamed about it and we don’t want to discuss it. I honestly understand that. I feel at fault for what happened and I shouldn’t! Looking back there WERE signs that it was a scam but the rush and panic he was painting kept me distracted from thinking logically. But talking about it spreads information and the more information you have, the better equipped you’ll be to protect yourself.
- I hate to say this one but: don’t pay at the pump. Go inside. That little thief telling me that on the phones feels like he was giving me a message. I don’t know if that’s how he got so much of my information but I’m going to take his advice. If you insist on paying at the pump, NEVER enter your pin number. Run it through as credit. So when you insert your debit card and it asks for your pin, instead of entering it, just hit “ENTER” or “OK” and that will run it through as credit. Also, ALWAYS jiggle the card reader. They slip fake ones over the real ones so that they can steal all your data. If the card reader doesn’t feel secure, don’t put in your credit card and go somewhere else.
- Lock your SSN. A lot of people don’t know this but you can actually lock your social security number. This prevents anyone from taking out loans or credit cards in your name. If they apply for anything using your SSN and you have it locked, it will get declined and the social security office will get notified. So if you don’t need an active SSN right now or at any point in your life, lock it to protect yourself. You can do so on sites like experian.com, lifelock.com or calling all three credit bureaus.
- Banks will never ask you for your SSN nor will they read your social back to you.
- If a bank or credit card company calls you, tell them you’ll be hanging up and call the customer service number back yourself. Prior to this happening to me, if someone gave me that piece of advice I would just think about the potential wait time and pass on doing this. But the wait time is worth it because scams happen every day and they can present themselves as any phone number! When I told the police that the number that called me was indeed Bank of America’s customer service, they responded by telling me that these scammers even have the ability to use the police department’s phone number and impersonate them. That’s terrifying. So hang up, deal with the weight time and you could be saving yourself from a major headache and a lot of money.
- Don’t ever use your login information or pay with your credit cards on a public computer.
- Monitor your accounts daily. You want to stop theft as soon as it starts.
- If your credit card number gets stolen and someone else uses it to buy anything at all, don’t just report it to your bank, make sure you file a police report as well. Your bank won’t suggest it to you willingly but it actually puts pressure on the bank to refund your stolen money because the police do contact them.
- Buy a shredder and use it on sensitive documents. If you don’t want to invest in a shredder, you can put all the documents in a box and take it to UPS and shred them yourself.
- Minimize the number of credit cards you carry on you. That way, if your wallet is stolen, the thief can implement less damage.
If you guys have any more advice, I’m all ears!
Please leave them down in the comments. Also, I encourage you to tell your stories below as well. If we know how they’re stealing from people, we’ll all be able to prevent it from happening to us.