Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States and can occur anywhere, from a trip to the grocery store to an innocuous purchase at a gas station. That’s what makes it so devastating, the victim is usually unaware until it has already happened.
Jazmin, a Venice resident, recently encountered the nightmarish reality of receiving an alert from her financial institution that there was an abnormal purchase on her account. She was stunned. Not knowing what to do or who to contact, she decided to go to Southland Credit Union to inquire about the charges on her account.
Jazmin was notified by her Southland app of a purchase that totaled over $1,000 from a Wal-Mart in Texas, thousands of miles from where she now stood, speaking with a Southland representative.
Julissa, the Southland Financial Service Representative who assisted Jazmin, was able to put an immediate freeze on Jazmin’s debit card, file a claim to recover the lost funds, and issued a replacement debit card that day so that Jazmin could continue to have access to her account without interruption.
When asked where her identity may have been compromised, Jazmin recalled a gas station pump that wasn’t operating properly. She was having difficulty with the card reader. It wouldn’t allow her to pay for the gas even though she was swiping the card like she always has.
On second thought, Jazmin said, the card reader may have been tampered with: it was loose and looked different.
This sort of story is not uncommon, in fact. Many times debit card information is compromised because of debit readers that have been tampered with and placed at gas stations and ATMs – places where plastic is constantly swiped – according to Southland Credit Union.
The fraudsters take the information from the card and create a clone to be used for fraudulent purchases – like the $1,000 purchases made at a Wal-Mart in Texas.
Southland always advises members to inspect the reader before using the card, says a Southland representative. If the device looks like it may have been tampered with, it is best to go inside to make a purchase or use a different machine.
Matt Herrick, Southland Credit Union’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, offered these tips:
• Monitor your credit union, bank, and credit card statements each month for charges that are not familiar or unauthorized.
• Immediately report those charges so the financial institution can investigate and you can seek reimbursement. Customers are not liable for unauthorized charges if they notify their financial institution within 90 days.
• If your account is compromised, have the financial institution change your account number or issue you a new credit card with a different account number.
• Never share your PIN number, account number, passwords for shopping, or financial websites, Social Security number or other such personal or financial information with anyone. When entering your PIN number, make sure no one else is close to you or looking at what you are doing.
• Many credit unions offer a plan that allows members to have regular credit monitoring which may include things like checking your credit report with the three credit bureaus, fraud alerts, and assistance with recovery. Take advantage of these services. Southland Credit Union, for example, offers members benefits from its free IDSafeChoice service, in which members are automatically enrolled when they join Southland. Or, Southland members can opt for extra coverage with Southland’s IDSafeChoice Plus Plan.
• Shared receipts, credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, old checks, bank statement, expired credit cards, and any financial documents you no longer need.
It’s important to heed the advice: No one wants the hassle of replacing credit cards and the financial ruin that can result from stolen information. Thankfully, Southland Credit Union can help assuage some of those worries.
Southland Credit Union is located at 525 Santa Monica Blvd. in Santa Monica.
For more information, call 888.898.9199 or visit SouthlandCU.org.