Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Finincial Planning After an "Oh S**T!" Moment

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping

Welcome to another installment of "Don't Be That Guy!" starring your lovable and occasionally smart blogger, me!
Yes, somewhere in the ether my account number was copied. With all the charges and fees added together, I lost almost $600. It could have been worse, though, if I hadn't tried to go shopping after work; the store is 3 blocks from my place, so I made a screaming trip home to get on my computer. Yes indeed, I'd been hacked.

A little personal information is needed: my credit is no good after a divorce several years ago, so now I have a debit card. Yes, that isn't the best way to pay, but it was the only way to pay without cash until recently. More on this last part in a bit. 

What Next?
Well, since it was only one card and not a stolen wallet with several different cards, I had it somewhat easy. Somewhat. I still needed to to stop any further charges and get a new card. Luckily I use a local credit union that was able to print me a new card on the spot after I called their fraud line. 

What can you do to keep from going through what I did?
  • Don't use your debit card to pay at businesses you don't trust. You could even stop using it for all online purchases, if you buy from sketchy businesses.
  • Only take out money from your own bank's ATM. That seems like an easy option, but only if you deal with a giant company.
  • Check your account often and call your bank immediately if you suspect fraud.
After doing all this I then needed to remove the old account number, and add the new number to all the places I do business... all the places, even if I couldn't remember where or what they were. The cell phone was easy, as was car insurance and Amazon, and I was done. 

...until my FasTrak bill arrived instead of an automatic charge. I had missed the email notification that my account was low and that it needed to be refilled to avoid violations ($35 instead of $6. Each use).
What I Should Have Done
My credit union suggested setting up alerts for my account, since there was a problem once and there may be a problem again. The thing is, I did have an alert set, but it didn't catch these charges. Whoever did this made 52 $2 to $5 charges, as if they'd done this before. I now have it set to receive a text for every single purchase I, or anyone else, makes. 

Another option: some credit card companies set up one-time account numbers for purchases. This would be fine... if I had a credit card. I know that Apple Pay and Google Pay exist as substitutes for debit cards, but I don't know anything about them, how those systems work or how widely they are accepted. It seems I need to do some more research.
How Did This Happen?
I don't really know where or when my account number got out. It could have been last week, last month or last year; it's hard to say. The one thing I do know is that all the charges were routed through fictitious phone numbers, also known as 'burners' created by a company. 

No, I'm not going to link to their pages. You can look for the name yourself. Why would I give them direct access back to this site? Besides, some of you may already be acquainted with their product, since it is advertised as a way to 'protect your privacy.' They say:
 Use a Burner line for everyday calling, texting or picture messages
◦ Create a disposable, private second line for dating, salespeople, deliveries, shopping online or selling items on Craigslist
◦ You can use it as a longterm second line for your business or side projects
◦ Create multiple private phone numbers, keep them as long as you want, or burn them anytime
◦ No need for a second line contract

Prank calling or texting your friend with a fake number (emphasis mine)

Needless to say, I don't think very highly of this company or their products, since it makes tracing who made these charges almost impossible.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Be smart with where your accounts are used. If the site seems shady, it probably is.
  • Check with your bank/credit union for information on how to protect yourself, they are prepared to help you prevent fraud or help you fix things if you do get hacked.
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