Identity Theft

One of my grandfathers ran a gas station and Plymouth and Desoto dealership in the 1940’s. On more than one occasion he told me about the problems he encountered in collecting past due amounts and insufficient fund checks. One of his favorite sayings was “In God we trust…all others pay cash.”

At least in my grandad’s day, you were pretty sure who the identity of the person who owed you money was. You knew which door to knock on to collect. With today’s technology, you may actually be dealing with a fictional person–picture and all.

A recent article in the Denver Post talks about counterfeit reality. It’s a good article and I would suggest you click on the link and view it. It’s an eye-opening bit of information.

No one is immune. I got a call the other day from a credit card company asking me if I had purchased some less than desirable merchandise over the Internet to the tune of about $2000. I had recently been traveling and used the card at a number of restaurants so I’m guessing someone wrote down the number and went on a shopping spree. Fortunately, I have fraud protection limits on my card so they called me. Not everyone is so fortunate. Even if you eventually catch the erroneous billings, it can take months or even years to get them straightened out.

When you select credit/debit cards, inquire about fraud protection and your liability limits. Keep in mind they don’t always apply in other countries.

When you use your cards at stores, clerks should not write anything down but should either instruct you to swipe them or they should swipe them through their registers. If you are someplace where they still use the old imprint method, make sure you get the carbons.

Restaurants are harder because they generally take the card away to process it. Anyone can write down information, including your security code and expiration dates off the card. If you are away from home you may want to consider paying in cash or obtain a temporary card with a smaller prepaid balance for traveling purposes only.

You can go to the VISA website and view their suggestions for fraud prevention. Just keep in mind it comes from their perspective.

With the holiday season firmly underway. Protect yourself. Manage your cards and identity. Be careful where you buy. Try to do business with local businesses or places you can physically return to if there is a problem. If you are going to shop by mail, phone, or Internet. Make sure they provide a secure means of purchasing and using your credit card information.

By taking a few precautions, you can help make sure your holiday season can be enjoyable.

About Gary Smith

Chief Smith has served over 31 years in the criminal justice field. He is currently a consultant assisting public and private organizations better establish community goals and ethical conduct with the members of their organizations. Chief Smith serves as a facilitator, lecturer, professor and other capacities both inside and outside the criminal justice field.
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