I hadn't planned on posting again this week, but something happened that I just had to share because it falls under the MOST ridiculous thing EVER. I'm still shaking my head.
I'm very diligent about checking our credit card accounts on a regular basis. No one is going to pull a fast one on me, and recently it paid off. I noticed a charge for $1.09. This stood out for so many reasons: I would never charge so little to begin with unless I had absolutely no choice, and because of that, I would definitely remember that small of a charge. Plus, I know from bad experiences from several friends, scammers usually start with a small purchase and if it goes through undisputed, they will then move on to bigger and better things.
As soon as I could, I called my credit card company to report it. Of course I had to go through the hassle of cancelling my cards, etc, and then officially "disputing" the charge in question. No biggie, we've only ever had to do this one other time before and it was relatively painless.
I also noticed a phone number beside the charge in question on the statement, so I decided to do a reverse lookup on it. It was: (are you ready for this) Experian! Yeah, the agency that is supposed to be monitoring your credit, one of the so called top 3 credit reporting bureaus in the US. It was one of the companies that work under their corporation.
As soon as they opened, I called to find out what was going on. This just gets crazier, and I'm still half laughing/half pissed off about it. Someone had used my credit card number to purchase a credit report and a credit monitoring service! WHAT?!?! Besides being gutsy as all get out, why didn't Experian discover that the name on the account didn't match the name on the credit card?!?!?!
Here's the disturbing part of all of this--apparently it happens all the time and has been for a while. I found a whole story very similar to mine on a blog and found this in the comments section, told to this person from an Experian rep: "It's common for identity thieves to get a hold of a credit card number and use it to buy someone else's credit report." Say what?!?! In other words, the person who used my credit card number may not be even the person whose name is on the credit report they ordered, it could be stolen as well. Wow, just wow. And Experian does nothing to stop this obviously, the reports I'm reading about this go clear back to 2012. There were probably close to 100 comments on this blog, primarily people who had experienced the same type of thing, all from Experian.
Some of it is phony, people using the Experian name to show up on a credit card statement so it looks legit. But a lot of it is not. In fact, there were several people who said that they hadn't had any issues with credit card fraud UNTIL they signed up for monitoring through one of Experian's companies. They operate under several different ones, Free Credit Report.com is one that comes to mind as they advertise extensively. The one that had used my credit card number is called Credit Check Total.
I also found a number of complaints in regards to their offers of "free credit reports". Hardly. First, they charge you a fee of $1. In fine print you will discover that when you do this, it automatically enrolls you in their credit monitoring service (what I suspect happened with mine, except I caught it too fast) and they will automatically charge your credit card a monthly fee until you cancel it. In 2005 the Federal Trade Commission investigated them for this very thing. Apparently they haven't learned anything from it though and think they are still above the law. They keep on getting away with it, they just lowered their fees.
I know that back when I worked in the banking industry, we didn't even use Experian for credit reporting purposes. They were unreliable and inaccurate more times than not. Apparently that hasn't changed!
Anyhow, my reason for posting this is to make everyone aware of this type of fraud. It can happen so easily, even to someone as particular as I am. I'm not even sure how they got my credit card number in the first place, I just know that they got it. And Experian does not offer any due diligence on verifying the information they are given. Not only did they not require the 3 or 4 number code on the back of the card, they didn't compare the names on the accounts. Very negligent if you ask me. In the blog I read, someone said they were told that they(Experian) don't require the number from the back of the card or verify that the names match because "someone might be buying it for someone else as a gift." Huh?!?!
So what should you do if this happens? First off, call your credit card company to report it, and they will investigate it, cancel that card, issue you new numbers and cards and hopefully reverse the charge. You then will need to verify that the company who charged your card is legit (pretty easy to do on the internet) and then you will need to contact them to cancel the service if in fact it is Experian or one of their affiliate companies. The reason you need to do this is because several people commented that even after they had cancelled the card, Experian had managed to get their new number and yup, you guessed it--started charging the new card. Remember, this is a credit bureau you are dealing with, so they have all of this information at their fingertips, legally.
One step to take further if you are concerned about ID theft is to freeze your credit (if you haven't already). It costs a nominal fee and prevents anyone from opening any NEW accounts under your name. I emphasize new accounts because it does not prevent theft of existing credit card accounts. It just protects you from anyone opening any additional credit cards or loans in your name. You still have to be pro-active in checking your own existing accounts. How does it work? Once your credit is frozen, no one can access your credit history, FICO score, etc. unless you unfreeze it. It also helps to eliminate those unwanted credit card offers you may receive in the mail (which can also be an open invitation for further fraud.)
I hate to sound like such a negative Nelly here, but I really want everyone to be aware of this. Banks are not our friends and from this whole experience and my research, it sounds like the credit bureaus aren't either. The bad part is that for so many people, credit cards are a necessity, even if you don't carry a revolving balance. You can't rent a car, a hotel room--so many things without a credit card. They literally have us at their mercy.
Poor show Experian.