I Was Almost Hacked

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Someone tried to hack me.

I never expected it and still wonder how it happened.

About a month ago, I received a letter from Regions Card Services informing me that there was suspicious and potentially fraudulent use on my VISA credit card account. The letter wanted me to contact their office because my account had been placed in referral status until they could speak with me. They had attempted to contact me by telephone, they said.

Unfortunately I had filed the letter, then forgot about it. I would read it when I had more time.

Then last week, I tried to order an item online. I couldn't get the online company to take my credit card. I was getting frustrated as I filed it over and over again. So I decided to call the number on my credit card to shed some light on my predicament. The person on the other end of the line said that they did not honor Regions cards. That, I told him, was not so. I had used my card several times and had ordered online during the Christmas season, using the card which was current until 2016.

(I will say here that I use my card sparingly. I can think of only three places online that I have used the card. I can narrow the use of my card because I don't use it for ordinary purchases.)

I got nowhere with the gentleman on the telephone despite my protests. I remembered that I had another Regions VISA card that I had never activated. I decided to activate it and reorder my merchandise.

But first I would reread the forgotten letter that Regions had sent to me.

And so, I called the card services to find out about the "dispute."

I was told that someone had attempted to hack my account. The unknown person or persons had tried to purchase a $1,000 airline ticket, overseas. The Regions spokeswoman asked if I had tried to make such a purchase.

I said, "Certainly not." I was shocked.

She explained that the situation had been taken care of. The credit card service who monitors my account, had refused to honor the suspicious transaction until I could verify its validity Therefore I would not be charged with the $1,000 amount. She suggested that I destroy the credit card; she would send out a new credit card. I asked about the card I had activated just minutes before. She said that it was activated and that I could use it to order my merchandise. And so I did. Then I immediately cut the old hacked card into pieces and threw it away.

I was profusely grateful that the service had monitored my account and prevented the illicit charge.

We read about hackers and scammers all the time, but we don't expect that it could happen to us.

I read in the AARP bulletin that one in twenty Americans was hit by identity theft last year, ---that amounts to one every three seconds--at a total cost of about $21 billion.

Personal data is stolen every day. Hackers will break into data bases operated by corporations, health care providers, government agencies and other organizations. (Remember the Target data breach). Up to 70 million customers were involved in stolen payment card data and stolen information that includes names, mailing addresses, phone numbers or email addresses.)

Medical records are especially prized in data breaches. We are advised to read every letter we receive from medical insurers and providers to ensure that no one has been masquerading (as you) to get treatment.

Monitor your accounts. Change your passwords frequently. Use your Social Security number sparingly. And guard who you give it to.

Just this week it was announced that thousands of Americans nationwide have been targeted by a phone scam in which fraudsters claim to be from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. They demand money for unpaid taxes. Thousands of victims have collectively paid more than $1 million to the scammers

The callers often manipulate caller ID displays so that it displays the number of a local IRS office.

And in some cases, the fraudsters have told victims parts of their Social Security numbers.

My aunt received a phone call that her grandson was overseas and in need of money to get to the United States. She was asked to wire money. My aunt played along with the ruse but sent no money. She knew her grandson was in college, not overseas needing money.

There are scammers of all kinds, in all places.

Beware the fly-by-day home improvement huckster. Remember that most reputable contractors are too busy to seek business by knocking on your door.

If you receive an unexpected check with strings attached, be cautious. If you are told to forward some portion of the money elsewhere, typically by wire transfer, the check is surely bogus.

Check out your charities. Some of them devote only pennies of every dollar they collect to the cause.

There are so many ways the consumer can be scammed these days.

It's not easy to keep abreast of them all.

To the consumer, beware.