I have recently been affected by fraud in a way that can only be described as frustrating and a nuisance. I did not think I was unusual in maintaining a current account (checking account for my US friends) in both the US and the UK, as my banking needs are different in each country. What I didn’t anticipate was when something goes wrong in the US, what a hassle it will be to make things right from 4,000 miles away. All because of fraudsters (and maybe a bit of laziness on my part).
As any diligent account holder does, I often check my balance to ensure there are no surprises. Unfortunately, I found quite a few, including multiple charges applied to my account for payments to a secured credit card that I had not taken out. After a little research, I found that this credit card product required the account holder to pre-fund it and was being used as a way to build back credit. As you can imagine, being the financial services world for more than 25 years, I knew exactly what to do to ensure this problem was fixed. What I didn’t anticipate was the persistence of the fraudster. Every other day, there were new charges applied with different merchant names. The fraudster was definitely giving it a go for sure.
How did I handle it?
I had to phone the bank, dispute the charges, and block the merchants. Keep in mind I am in the UK on a 5 hour time difference, so making contact with my bank in the US was not so convenient. I am sure you are asking, why didn’t you just close the account? Good question. Unfortunately I had all of my direct debits tied to this account and you can’t just stop and move them as quickly as you’d like, so I had to keep the account open for a bit. I know that loads of people go through this unfortunate experience all too often, so what is it exactly that I want to share? This incident reminded me that I had not been as diligent about keeping my personal information safe. I may have gotten a bit lazy and, as a result, my personal identity was compromised and used for fraud.
How to mitigate the risk:
In this day and age of modern technology, we have numerous passwords and it is no easy task to keep up with them, much less change them on a regular basis. But we can either take the time now and keep our identity safe or end up spending hours cleaning up the mess that fraudsters can make. It’s as simple as that! After changing all of my passwords, updating all my direct debits, updating all my apps with the new current account numbers, I was finally in a position to close the account. I now have a reminder on a quarterly basis to change my passwords, across everything online. It may take a bit of time to do on a Saturday afternoon, but I feel confident that I am working as hard as I can to keep my data safe. Don’t take for granted that just because you’ve not been attacked by a fraudster that you can’t be at any point. Be diligent, spend the time, stay safe!!