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Voice of the Consumer: No one is safe from fraud - not even the experts

March 11, 2018 Updated: March 13, 2018 at 6:20 am
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This week, things got personal. Crooks tried to drain my bank account in a matter of minutes. I want to share my story with you about how it happened and how you can protect yourself from the same thing.

It started with an alert to my phone. I got a text message from my bank saying my card had unusual activity. My stomach sank. I called my husband right away to make sure he wasn't trying to purchase anything and he told me he hadn't used his card all day.

My bank sent me a text message asking me to verify the charges or they would block my card. Then I got a text message with details of the multiple purchases, which totaled about $500.00. The charges were racked up in just a matter of minutes. Someone was using my card to make purchases on Venmo, which is an application that lets users transfer money to one another using the phone app or the web.

My bank asked me to confirm if the charges were valid or not. I wrote back and denied the charges. Immediately, my bank blocked the purchases and put a hold on my card so the crooks couldn't try to make any other transactions. Soon after, my bank called me, but it was from a phone number that I didn't recognize. I didn't want to risk talking to a scammer so I called my bank using a trusted, legitimate phone number that I have saved in my cellphone.

I spoke with a customer service agent and I explained that I had suspicious charges on my account. I found out someone was charging my card in New York. Here's the hook: I've never been to New York. What's more, I don't have Venmo. Ugh, the frustration! The representative told me that even she was surprised at how quickly the thieves were trying to steal my money.

Thankfully, my bank blocked all the purchases, so the scammers never actually got any money from my account and I didn't get charged for it either. Customer service walked me through my other recent charges to make sure everything else looked good, which it did.

I am so glad that I signed up to get fraud notifications sent straight to my phone. It helped me stop the crooks in their tracks. You may want to reach out to your bank and see what sort of notification system they offer to prevent fraud. I'm also signed up to get notifications if my bank account gets low to avoid overdraft fees, or if we make a purchase over a certain dollar amount.

Also, I make sure to check my bank account often. My husband and I check it every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Make sure you keep a close eye on your account so you know where your money is being spent. Hopefully my scare will remind everyone to be vigilant and observant so we don't lose our hard-earned money to crooks.

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