Identity theft and what we can all do about it

Since my last post, in which I discussed the new EMV credit cards, I have, again, become the victim of identity theft. Not the REALLY bad kind where someone starts opening up credit (I don’t think) , but the stolen credit card kind. The experience has left me a little perplexed as to why businesses allow certain practices to occur, which I will explain later.

I have my suspicions that it was someone from the cleaning service we use, so I am now dealing with them. This time, the theft was local and involved three credit cards and a gift card. So, not only did they steal a gift card from our place (note: you are SOL if you lose these; banks don’t refund them, unlike credit card loss) but also used a well-known on-demand car rental service in the DC area. You’ve heard of them. And, man did they drive around. $1500 of driving, and I can only imagine all of the wonderful activities that took place while doing so.

I am not too worried because I have already cancelled my cards, filed a police report (per the cleaning service request), and have spoken to well-known on-demand car rental service to try track down who did this so it doesn’t happen again. American Express and Baryclays, you’re welcome, and I am now considering  a new career in anti-fraud. Overall, what I am really ticked about, especially since this involved renting a car which required using one’s driver’s license, is why didn’t well-known on-demand car rental service match the credit card billing address with the driver’s name and address? It seems like they are inviting fraud to occur or worse, grand theft auto.

In addition to adopting the new EMV card technology immediately, I am calling on all companies who accept credit cards for purchases that involve purchasing services like car rentals, to match the driver, billing address, and credit card information at a minimum. I am perplexed as to why well-known on-demand car rental service company doesn’t do this.

Now with that said, let’s discuss what you can do to protect yourself from fraudulent activity. First, get an ID theft prevention/alert service. If you have AAA, they have a basic ID theft protection service for free. I called them the other day and they will alert you if there’s an inquiry into your credit history; this can be a good indication of illegal activity if you didn’t apply for credit or signed a lease recently. Second, I just got an email promoting MasterCard’s ID theft service. I will be checking them out. Third, you can also increasingly easily freeze your credit card, even temporarily, if you can’t find your card and suspect it’s lost. Discover has a very easy process to do this right from your online account. There’s literally a Freeze Account button which will turn on/turn off all activity. Fourth, review your statements frequently. Checking often will help you spot odd charges that you can dispute right away.

Save for acting paranoid all of the time, I am hoping that my readers can take a few lessons from my experience to help protect themselves from this. It’s going to happen at some point to you. For banks, credit card issuers, IT industry, and large companies, let’s work together and do more about combatting fraud. I am ready to start today.

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