Credit card fraud happens with, without computer

Pat Hudspeth fell victim to credit card fraud the old-fashioned way — without a computer.

She was checking her bank statements last week and found an odd $95 charge to her account from a company called Cupid, and it came with a number.

“They went in, and the number came up as an adult porn site,” Hudspeth said about police investigating the case. “He said when they started tracking the number it went to different countries out of the United States.”

Her bank gave her the money back, but she has no idea how anyone would have gotten her number.

She keeps her card in her purse, and she uses it to make payments through her bank, she said.

“I said, ‘How did they get my credit card number?’ ” Hudspeth said.

When she called the number she found through the bank, she said a man with a foreign accent picked up the phone and told her that she could register with the company and get discounts at stores like Walmart, Walgreens and Target.

She didn’t buy it.

” I said, ‘Who are you people?’ ” Hudspeth said. “I knew they were lying through their teeth.”

She threatened to come after them with law enforcement, so that authorities would be “crawling through every open orifice that they had.”

When she called the same number four hours later, the line called itself an information directory line, Hudspeth said.

She worries the money could eventually go to nefarious purposes.

“How do I know that $95 didn’t go into the hands of a terrorist?” Hudspeth said.

The best thing to do in a case where the credit card has been compromised may be to get another card, San Angelo Better Business Bureau President Glenna Friedrich said.

Using cards on the Internet is especially perilous, she said.

“Even if you’ve used them for years, most of these Internet sites you order from, a lot of them aren’t that secure,” Friedrich said.

The more prominent websites from tried-and-true companies are the best to stick with, said Gary Cox, president of Texas State Bank.

Credit card companies often offer fraud protection services where they examine suspicious purchases, such as ones made in different parts of the country, Cox said. Another technique to protect Internet purchases lets people use a one-time credit card number online that expires after use.

Going through an online banking site is the most secure way to do business over the Internet, Friedrich said.

Calling in a credit card by phone can be risky because the person on the other line may write down the number and sell it, although telemarketing businesses such as Sitel take precautions against that by not letting employees bring in writing instruments and paper, Friedrich said.

“It could be someone she has called into is not trustworthy,” Friedrich said.

With the holiday season approaching, Friedrich said people also need to be especially careful with people stealing checkbooks.

There isn’t a notification to merchants that a check is hot the way a credit card can be reported stolen, Friedrich said.

Most merchants and banks don’t check the signature and just scan them electronically, she said.

“You’ve got to go to a bank and dispute it,” Friedrich said of checks being signed falsely. “Any time you’re talking about the holidays, people need to be careful with their checkbooks.”

Credit card numbers and checks can also be stolen by desperate family members, Cox said.

“Unfortunately you do see times when family misuses it,” Cox said. “It’s not all Internet and all foreigners.”

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