By DANIELLE MCCARTHY
It was the scariest phone call I’ve ever received. I suppose, in retrospect, I should be happy it is the scariest phone call I’ve ever received. But waking up to a phone call from a stranger telling you he has reason to believe your bank account has been compromised is never good.
What’s that you say? More than $1,000 in charges to websites based in the United Arab Emirates and to “Bowl.com!?” Made from my debit card?! I only wish I had the kind of money to make such frivolous purchases as those!
My initial reaction probably should have been to question the legitimacy of the man whom I was speaking with on the phone. But, no, that did not even occur to me. Instead, the only thing I could seem to care about right then and there was whether or not I would be able to get any of this money back. (My eyes may or may not have filled up with tears at the thought of losing all that money. Alright, fine … my eyes did fill up with tears.) As a broke college student, the money used to fraudulently make purchases on those websites was more than I had at the time.
Attempting to prevent some sort of panic attack, I asked the man on the phone if I’d be able to get any of the money back. He reassured me I would get it all back if I followed a few simple steps. A wave of relief larger than I ever could have imagined possible washed over me. It only took a few quick phone calls to MasterCard and my credit union to get everything in order and ensure I’d get my money back. My mind was at peace. Or at least, I thought it was …
Since that day I’ve become one of the world’s most paranoid people when it comes to using my debit card. Shortly after this whole episode, I got a suspicious looking email from PayPal about a purchase I had reportedly made. I freaked out and called my credit union. They assured me that all was well with my account and that the email was most likely nothing more than spam sent to hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Regardless of this, I’ve started refusing to use my debit card online and I try to avoid using it anywhere else in general for that matter. It’s a little inconvenient, but worth that extra peace of mind I get knowing that my paranoia might keep someone from fraudulently using my account in the future.
While the whole situation certainly proved to be quite stressful, it served as a much-needed wake up call for my complacent self regarding debit card fraud and identity theft. Debit or credit card fraud happens all the time and it could easily happen to anyone. The people committing these crimes will likely never get caught, but I learned there are plenty of ways to protect yourselves from them taking advantage of you.
The Federal Trade Commission offers an excellent list of tips here: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre04.shtm. Read up and hopefully you will prevent fraud from someday happening to you.
Danielle is a senior majoring in economics and broadcast journalism at the University of Missouri.
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