I have been traveling in the motor home for almost a week. I have charged several restaurant meals and campground fees and in-store purchases on my bank's debit card. I was a bit surprised today when my bank called my cell phone and told me there was possible fraudulent activity on my card. At first, I assumed the charges were legitimate as I had made charges in several states in the past six days. However, as the lady on the phone recited the charges to me, one jumped out at me as obviously bogus.
Thursday evening, someone charged a night's stay at a Motel 6 somewhere in Virginia. Not only have I not been in Virginia for a year or so, but, if I was, I would not have stayed in any motel. After all, I am traveling in a motor home and am carrying my own bedroom with me! I have no need of motels!
The lady at Bank of America kindly credited the charge to my account.
First, I am delighted that the bank is monitoring charges and that someone at the bank called.
Next, because I used to work for a credit card processing company, I know that debit cards and credit cards may look the same but are radically different in the way they are handled. Debit cards are really "electronic checks" and do not always include protection against fraudulent charges. Obviously, Bank of America does provide such insurance and actively monitors for fraudulent charges. Many other banks do the same but not all of them do that.
Question: is your debit card insured against fraudulent charges? If you don't know, I suggest you call the bank that issued the debit card and ask. Fraud does happen, as I found out this week. Luckily, my experience didn't cost me a dime because my bank insures all debit card transactions.
I can only guess how the thief obtained the credit card number. I haven't used that debit card online for many months so I don't think there is much of a chance of any online fraud. However, I have used that debit card several times in the past week in restaurants, gas stations, and stores as I traveled cross-country from Massachusetts to my present location in Indiana. I'd guess that a clerk in a retail store or a member of the waitstaff in a restaurant copied the numbers. Unfortunately, I cannot be certain that was the cause. I will probably never know for sure.
I do know that most credit card (and debit card) fraud occurs during in-person transactions, not during online transactions on the Web.
I always check my debit card charges closely on my bank's web site. I will be even more diligent than ever in the next few weeks as I am traveling through a dozen states or more. I suggest you do the same.
What's in your wallet?
If you enjoyed this article, please share it with others. Tweet it, share it on Google+, Facebook or on your preferred social network.
Republishing of this article in newsletters, blogs, and elsewhere is allowed and encouraged, with a few minor restrictions. Details may be found at http://goo.gl/hoHH1.
Of course, if you haven’t done so already, you should join my email newsletter mailing list to stay current on my latest articles and announcements. You can also cancel at any time within seconds. I promise to never, ever send you any unrequested e-mail, other than newsletter updates.