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It started with a text.

Alert: Please verify Credit Card Charges for your card:

Date: 17 Nov

Amt: $162.21

Where: 1262 Sephora Co

Did you authorize this activity? Reply Y or N

At first, I thought it was a scam. Who capitalizes Credit Card Charges? I ignored it for all of five minutes, the limit of my mindfulness, and then looked at it again and saw that I had responded earlier in the year to another alert that was legitimate.

Fine.

I typed N.

$162 at Sephora? I haven’t been there in years let alone in Colorado. Pricey beauty trip.

The response: Call us now to confirm recent activity on your acct.

Hmm. The texts are abbreviated and suspicious. I opened my credit account and saw an alert on my card. Finally, I couldn’t delay it anymore. I called my bank.

Spree & Flee

After some time on hold, where I had a chance to ponder the meaning of life, I spoke to a representative. He confirmed my suspicion.

My credit card was hijacked.

I found this odd because I had been using it much less. Yet, the sneaky criminal had somehow found it and took my card on impressive spending sprees from Colorado to Vegas to Tampa. The thieves had managed to do more traveling with my card in an hour than I’d done all year!

Since I responded correctly to the initial text, all the purchases were denied.

N means no.

Gut Check

After having my credit card hijacked, I was concerned about my other credit cards.

I realized the suspicious text is what started the reluctant inquisition. Its notification allowed me to contain the damage before it had gone too far. One way to beef up security was to ensure I enrolled in any alerts for fraudulent charges for my other accounts.

After doing the basics, I went all out and signed up for an Initial Fraud Alert. This alert requires creditors to contact me before opening an account. Plus, it’s free for a year. Equifax has a higher tier for identity theft which involves a police report. I didn’t have a police report so initial fraud alert it is!

An extra layer of security is like a mental weighted blanket for my credit history. Especially since I have no idea how my credit card was hijacked.

Protecting Assets

I rarely use a debit card. The lack of protection is creepier than Sunday scaries.

If a debit card gets hijacked, the owner is responsible for up to $500 or more in fraudulent charges unless it’s reported in 2 business days. 

When my credit card was hijacked, I have sixty days (60!) to report fake charges.

If my checking account gets locked down, I have to change all my direct deposits. Whereas with my credit account, I only have a few auto pays to adjust.

Credit Check

Similar to doctor’s exams, taxes, and becoming another year young, I check my credit reports yearly.

Annual credit report is where I check the three bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) for free. I check one every few months, which spreads the reports throughout the year and maximizes coverage.

The credit cards will let me know about fraudulent charges but not fraudulent accounts. Checking my credit report also ensures I maintain a high credit score and that my work doesn’t become someone else’s Sephora spree.

A Balancing Act

I don’t balance a checkbook, but I do balance credit cards.

At the end of each month, I verify charges by checking them against my budget. Every expense gets entered into my budget. It was tedious at first, but it has been exceptionally useful years later.

A detailed budget forces me to look at my spending history while ensuring I stay on track. Plus, I can look back and see how my spending has changed or see how much I was charged for products, services, and insurance.

Rachel Scott knows how I feel about budgets. “We think that budgeting means cutting back on spending or that it’s too difficult or unnecessary to learn. In reality, it just means that you have a plan for your money. Without one, reaching your goals will either be significantly harder or, in some cases, impossible. Budgets don’t have to be hard or bad.”

Preach, sister, preach! 

Ever Alert

After joking with the banking rep and confirming that I hadn’t visited far-flung destinations, he canceled my card and expedited another.

When it finally arrived, shiny and new, I was sad. I missed the familiar last four digits of my prior card. It served me well over the past 13 years.

A strange sadness for a plastic card is the price to pay for extra security and this gal is happy to pay it.

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