I am continually victimized on my debit card and one credit card.
October 26, 2015 12:22 PM   Subscribe

My one debit card and one out of four credit cards are continually subject to fraud charges no matter what I do. Why is this and what can I do to prevent it?

This is really puzzling (and scary)!

I have one Bank of America checking account and four credit cards, one of which is a corporate AmEx. Without fail, EVERY single time I use my debit and AmEx cards, there appears to be anywhere from 3-10 fraudulent charges on each card. I can't tell you how many times I've reported the fraud, the bank/Amex issues a new one, and within a week there's a new fraud charge on it - two weeks ago I ordered a new card, received it on a Monday and there was a fraud charge on it by Wednesday! I've even tried not using my debit card or the AmEx but the charges still occur.

The charges are all made online - I have the card in my possession at all times, and by that I mean my purse is with me whenever I'm at work, and at home it also sits by my bed. I don't live with anyone except my boyfriend (and just in case anyone asks, yes, I trust him - plus this has been going on longer than he's lived with me). Most of the charges on both cards are similar - Amtrak and Metrolink, subscription charges to movie and sports channels, newsmagazines. No physical transactions so far (and this has been going on for a year). This does not affect any of my other credit cards.

I have Lifelock, and monitor my credit report religiously. So far, no adverse impact. I changed all my passwords for bank/ credit accounts numerous times. I use my work laptop on secured networks both at work and at home and have logged into all my accounts from my work laptop, yet these are the only two accounts affected. I had my laptop wiped in case there was some hacking/ or malware on it, nothing changed. I've filed police reports, the bank and credit card companies are aware of this and yet no one can do anything about it and it keeps happening.

This has been going on for longer than six months and I'm really, really worried. What could possibly be the cause for it? What can I do to prevent this other than what I've already done? I could try switching banks but that still leaves the problem of my AmEx card, so I don't think that would help anything.

Thanks for your insight!
posted by Everydayville to Law & Government (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
When my card was last stolen, they did it. . . somehow. . . by hacking my gmail. Do you use two-factor authentication on your personal email accounts?
posted by KathrynT at 12:27 PM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Where do you shop most regularly? That it's this consistent makes me think there's either a scanner reader or an unscrupulous person at one of your regular haunts. Maybe there's even a card scammer fixed on an ATM you use regularly.

Do your new cards have chips? They should, and I believe the intent is to cut down on how easy it is to affix one of those scanner things to card readers. For a while I would shop exclusively at places with chip readers and see if the attacks stop.
posted by phunniemee at 12:28 PM on October 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

Do you have wifi, and have you changed your wifi password recently when you changed all your other passwords? I wonder if someone is getting onto your network and stealing from you that way. They might not touch the corporate account either because they missed that one or because they are afraid of actually being caught by a company who can afford to investigate fraud charges.

If you have a wifi router, you can probably set it up to only specific devices on your network, restricting by MAC address. It is possible to spoof a MAC address but it's harder than figuring out someone's wifi password.
posted by possibilityleft at 12:30 PM on October 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

two weeks ago I ordered a new card, received it on a Monday and there was a fraud charge on it by Wednesday! I've even tried not using my debit card or the AmEx but the charges still occur.

So you get a new card, don't use it, and the charges still occur? Someone has to be looking at the card. Who had assess to your mail? Is it a locked mailbox or unlocked? Can you have a card mailed to another address, maybe a po box? Ask your neighbors if the same is happening to them.
posted by Huck500 at 12:30 PM on October 26, 2015 [11 favorites]

It seems odd that it's the same kind of charges every time. I would wonder who might have access to your mailbox also; seems to point to a single repeat offender (as opposed to card-theft rings that get lots of cards and go buy expensive stuff with them). Which is really creepy! I second asking your neighbors if they are having the same problem.

You don't say if you are in a house or apartment. Are there any way to put security cams near your mailbox, or check ones that are there?

What if you changed your mailing/billing address? Do it over the phone, not online. Call the help desk, tell them the trouble you've been having, have them send the new cards to that address.

Detective-wise, is there any way to find out about the Amtrack and Metrolink charges...destinations, origins? Who are the subscriptions being delivered to? Seems like an easy way to find the culprit, though I know getting cops to care is hard.
posted by emjaybee at 12:36 PM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Call your credit card companies and ask for a list of phone numbers that have been used by people calling about your card. Despite this being an incredibly obvious thing to do, the credit card company of someone I know never bothered to do this. One reverse look up later and we figured out who was stealing the cards - had a name and associated it with an address which corresponded to the locations of the fraudulent charges. While this didn't seem to provoke any response from law enforcement or result in the credit card company pursuing the person, it did make the credit card company finally agree to let the person whose card it was close the card completely.
posted by sciencegeek at 12:46 PM on October 26, 2015 [6 favorites]

Some explanation on how I use the cards:

The debit card I use sparingly - groceries and gas if ever. I'm one of those people that uses a credit card and pays the balance off each month. Fingers crossed, that credit card has never gotten hacked. With regard to mail, the new temporary card that I get is done in person at B of A - I go in, tell them my card has fraud charges on it, they issue a new temp card to me right there - no one sees the card. The fraud charges occur so fast that I never end up using the card they send me in the mail... it's the temporary, 30-day debit card that gets the charges on it. I also have gone to different bank branches so I don't think it's one particular person, etc.

The Amex card I get delivered to work, and I pick up the unopened Fedex envelope. Basically, the two cards are going to different places.
posted by Everydayville at 12:56 PM on October 26, 2015

You know, some pre-authorized payments go through on a new number even if your replace the card. That is, if a company pre-authorized monthly/weekly/whateverly/whenevervly charges on your credit card X and you get card X replaced with Y, the charge can still go through, indefinitely (as far as I can tell). The charge will be on your bill for credit card Y.

The way to de-authorize pre-authorized payments if you can't contact the company making the charges, is to get a new account, not just a new card. That is, close your credit card account and get a new credit card account, not just a new card/new number.

If it's the same stuff going through all the time and it is going through immediately after you get a new card, I would suspect that this might be what is going on.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:02 PM on October 26, 2015 [14 favorites]

My first thought was account takeover - someone impersonating you and obtaining your card information via the call centers or online banking. However, I became skeptical when you mentioned how quickly it happened, and the fact that all the charges are online.

Couple of questions for you:
- Are you absolutely sure they're new fraud charges each time, and not denied fraud claims re-posted to your account?
- Have you talked to the fraud investigator taking care of your case? Can they confirm that the charges are actually occurring using your new card number?
- Have you tried cancelling the cards and not having new ones issued to you to see what happens?

There are a couple ways I can think of that I've seen this kind of thing happen. In my experience, you're not going to see it stop completely until something is done on the bank side.
posted by Verdandi at 1:05 PM on October 26, 2015

It's not clear to me how to tell which BOA cards support it, but mine has a service called ShopSafe that you can access on the main account page in the right hand column, about 2/3 the way down. It lets you generate temporary numbers with specific set limits. I use these for online purchases everywhere now and while I didn't have many fraud issues prior, I have had none since I started. I basically only use the "real" card number when I am buying something in person. Unfortunately, I don't think Amex offers this service, at least not with the card I have, but you may want to check with them.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:05 PM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is the replacement card actually assigned a different account number?

This was my question exactly. I've lost my debit card like three times in the past few months, my bank does the same "come in and get a new one" thing--but my account number never changes.

Have you tried opening a brand spanking new account? Transfer money into it as needed, use debit attached only to the new account.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:19 PM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

I wonder if you have a neighbor who is looking at your mail. Even if he/she isn't opening the envelope in which your new card arrives, maybe it's possible to do a rubbing to pick up the raised numbers of the card? Or maybe the envelopes are being carefully opened and then re-sealed somehow?

If you've got four different cards, with different banks, and there's no common point-of-purchase that's capturing the numbers (i.e., a gas station where you use each card before the frauds start), then the place they all seem to have in common is your mailbox and/or your house.

Just a thought. I think it's worth reporting to your local police; even if the scenario above is impossible, they may have some ideas.
posted by amtho at 1:33 PM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would try something like this: Wipe and rebuild the computer from fresh sources and connect to it only via wire. (Buy yourself a long cable and connect it to the modem.) Put password access on the machine and tell no one (not even the boyfriend) what it is.

Also, change accounts, and maybe even change banks. Burn the old accounts and don't reuse any PINs or security questions. After you have a fresh machine that only you have access to and that you connect only through a cable, change security answers. Change any stupid security questions to things only you would know because you made them up and you do not write them down anywhere. (What's your favorite weasel? Answer: rutabaga defcon melotron backgammon.) If you can't change the security questions, make up the security answers: your mother's maiden name, if any place is dumb enough to ask you such an easy one, is "Wicked Wanda from Toledo" instead of your mother's actual maiden name.

But could it be your boyfriend? You trust him but do you know mathematically 100 percent that he isn't using insider access and knowledge to rip you off, maybe on the assumption that it only hurts the credit card companies and not you? What are his finances like? Does he use any (secretly all?) of the services for which you are billed? Has he been your boyfriend (though not living with you) the whole time this has been happening? Could there be a keystroke recorder on your machine? Could someone know where you wrote down your security information? Be thorough enough to 100 percent eliminate from suspicion the boyfriend and any other friends, neighbors, and relatives with similar physical access to you machine and home. Your relatives, boyfriend's relatives, landlord, etc.

See if that stops this shit.
posted by pracowity at 1:40 PM on October 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

Lots of things to try, thank you. I will get a new bank account, and perhaps both the bank and Amex can monitor for these specific charges (the more I think about it, the more these are recurring charges - same amount, same time each month).

Unofrtunately, I am not able to solely connect my laptop via wire, as this is a work laptop and I don't own one at home. Also, while I see the logic behind not trusting people with physical access to my home, my boyfriend has been my boyfriend longer than this has been happening. If someone close to me was ripping me off, it's unlikely they'd choose just these two accounts to mess with and not my other accounts - ones that have more money/ credit limit. Thank you for the suggestion to be safe all round - but this is one thing I'm 100% sure of.
posted by Everydayville at 2:26 PM on October 26, 2015

It's possible for one account to have multiple cards on it. I don't use the same bank as you, but on my statements, I just see the charges listed for the account, with no indication of which card was used. Ask your bank if there's another card on the account; it's possible the card you've been cancelling over and over is different from the one that's being abused.
posted by aubilenon at 2:30 PM on October 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

my boyfriend has been my boyfriend longer than this has been happening.

Then he is not ruled out.
posted by pracowity at 3:10 PM on October 26, 2015 [12 favorites]

(the more I think about it, the more these are recurring charges - same amount, same time each month).

On my most recent fraud call (yesterday) the lady I was talking to was like, "one sec, ok no we are good, these aren't recurring charges so they shouldn't show up again."

Which makes me think they have a way of seeing something that is set as recurring?
posted by magnetsphere at 4:28 PM on October 26, 2015

There absolutely is a way for recurring charges to be marked as such, and they absolutely can carry over when a card is replaced. I've had this happen (with legitimate recurring charges) before. It greatly surprises me that two different banks would repeatedly over a period of months be too dumb to either cancel these or give you a completely new account (I'm assuming you're specifically telling them WHICH charges are fraudulent), but that explanation is far more plausible to me than many of the other possibilities being thrown around here. I've worked in internet fraud prevention professionally, and I've seen some pretty devious stuff, but the mundane explanations tend to outnumber the exotic ones many, many times over. I'm willing to bet my next paycheck that it's not someone sniffing your wifi.
posted by primethyme at 4:50 PM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

I should add, someone in the household using the card without the cardholder's permission is one of THE most common "mundane explanations" I've seen for fraudulent charges. I'm not convinced that's the case here, but it's ridiculously common.
posted by primethyme at 4:53 PM on October 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

People above are responding as though the security leak is happening via your computer, but that would only be true if you yourself used the card(s) on the computer _before_ the fraudulent charges happened.

If fraudulent charges are happening even to cards that have never been used on the Internet, then the security problem is _not_ computer based.
posted by amtho at 6:20 PM on October 26, 2015 [7 favorites]

Yeah, the recurring charge thing sounds like the real culprit. My guess is somehow the bank's left handed system authorized a recurring charge. You reported it as fraud and the bank's right handed system canceled the charges and sent a new card, but didn't tell the left hand about it. Now the cycle has repeated several times.

I'm pretty sure with some credit cards there are systems that merchants can buy into to be part of that "left-handed" system so that even if a card is replaced their charges keep going through. That's my strong suspicion.
posted by meinvt at 8:01 PM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

If fraudulent charges are happening even to cards that have never been used on the Internet, then the security problem is _not_ computer based.

As the scary old story goes, "The calls are coming from inside the house!"
posted by pracowity at 1:59 AM on October 27, 2015

then the security problem is _not_ computer based.

... not *your* computer but it could still be the *bank's computer* as it knows the card number ...
posted by RoadScholar at 5:13 AM on October 27, 2015

Thank you all again for your suggestions - I will definitely try to work with my bank on what seems to be these 'recurring' charges.

For the record, it's astonishing that the most favorite response is one that seems unnecessarily accusatory - there are several reasons why someone close to me, boyfriend or otherwise, could not be the source of the fraud, not the least being that the transactions originated from different states, etc. Nevertheless, thank you again for your input!
posted by Everydayville at 12:18 PM on October 27, 2015

Even if the transactions originate from different states, a neighbor (or someone who regularly drives around and just checks mailboxes, they don't have to be someone you know) could be acquiring and sharing/selling the card numbers.
posted by amtho at 12:41 PM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

not *your* computer but it could still be the *bank's computer* as it knows the card number

There are several different credit cards involved, so I'm assuming there are different banks.

One other thought: you could see if other people living near you have had the same problem.
posted by amtho at 12:42 PM on October 27, 2015

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