Students not safe from identity theft


Illustration by Trevor Moore Photo credit: Trevor Moore

“Your card has been declined. It says it’s not authorized.”

I was in a drive-thru buying lunch with zero cash on me when my debit card stopped working.

I checked my account on my phone and saw that there was money in the account, so that wasn’t the issue.

But what I also noticed was a 10-cent Apple Online charge pending approval, which is beyond suspicious since I don’t use Apple anything.

Fast forward to when I finally get to the bank to get to the bottom of this mess faster than the Scooby gang.

The truth: my debit card was compromised and the bank had shut down my card (apparently they had forgotten to call me to let me know).

See, I didn’t know this, but using your card on unsavory or unprotected websites isn’t the only way that hackers and identity thieves can obtain your credit or debit card information.

Apparently, those horrible assholes use random card number generators to get potential card numbers, and then they attempt to make charges with those numbers to see which ones work.

That 10-cent Apple Online store charge and three other small charges that I couldn’t even see (the bank flagged them immediately as fraud) are what’s called “hot card charges,” aka small charges that should fly under the bank’s radar in an effort to test the account.

If the charge goes through, the person has an active account that they can drain of cash or rack up charges on.

On top of that, the worthless pieces of scum also charged two purchases of around $7,800 on the VISA portion of my card. Luckily, VISA caught that right away as I never make large purchases like that, which is how the fraud was originally discovered and stopped.

So what’s the moral of this convoluted story?

Pay very close attention to your bank accounts and credit card statements and report any suspicious charges immediately.

See, I was very lucky because VISA caught the charges right away, which flagged my card and in turn caused my bank to monitor my account very closely.

But many people who ignore or rarely check their statements are in grave danger should a hacker win the proverbial lotto with a number generator.

And honestly, I never knew just how much I relied on my card until I had to wait almost two weeks to get a new one.

My Netflix account got put on hold because my card was inactive, I had to call Jostens so that they wouldn’t cancel my class ring order and I had to go to the bank (which is across town) any time I needed cash because I had to physically see a teller.

Ironically, the night before I was watching an episode of “Bones” where one of the characters had her identity stolen and her entire life was put on hold, and I remember thinking, “That’ll never happen to me.”

Famous last words.

Megan Mann can be reached at [email protected] or @meganisthemann on Twitter.