Elementary, my dear Watson?
October 7, 2021 11:10 AM   Subscribe

I used a new credit card for the first time at a small restaurant. There was a fraudulent charge the day after. I haven't used the card anywhere else. Was the credit card leaked by the restaurant?

I recently received a replacement credit card (so: same number as the old one, but different CVV and expiry date). I used it at a small restaurant, and the day after, there was a fradulent charge. This is literally the only transaction on the new card.

So, can I be sure that the credit card info was stolen at the restaurant? And if so, should I reach out to the restaurant? It's literally across the street, and the food was decent, so I wouldn't mind eating there again - but yeah.

(This is in the US.)
posted by airmail to Work & Money (10 answers total)
Because this is the same ACCOUNT even though it's not the same card, charges on the old card will go through to the new account and just look like they came through on that card (at least in Canada). All the old numbers will be linked to the new card. Like I literally pay my bill using the card number for 2 cards ago because I haven't bothered updating it on my bank's web site and it goes through just fine. And automatic charges set up with the old card number go through fine on the new card number.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:13 AM on October 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Call the card issuer and ask them.
posted by theora55 at 11:14 AM on October 7, 2021

The odds are the card issuer won't tell airmail. I know that's been my personal experience. The bank actually told me that they don't want me as a consumer "punishing" any company for leaking my card details. My argument that I have the right to protect myself, was apparently invalid.

I would mention it to the restaurant. You can do it casually, but yes, they should be aware that there is a possibility that your card could have been compromised there.
posted by sardonyx at 11:17 AM on October 7, 2021

Effectively, you can never be sure where your card info was stolen. I have, quite literally, seen fraudulent charges on cards that had never been used. The issuer probably doesn't know where it was compromised, and if they did, they won't tell you.

In a past life part of my job was being on the receiving end of people who were sure my employer was the cause of their credit card fraud, and even when they thought it was an open and shut case, it really never was.

As frustrating as it is, my advice on this kind of thing is to move on with your life and forget about tracking down where it was compromised, because you probably can't know, and even if you do know, there's not a lot you can do with that information.
posted by primethyme at 11:19 AM on October 7, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Yep, because this was just a new card, not a new account, there's no real way for you to know. Your old card isn't turned off immediately upon activation of the new card, so it could have been anywhere you'd used the previous card. Your credit card company may or may not know, but generally, they do keep track of patterns, and can often guess where the compromise is based on what you have in common with other customers who had compromised cards. They almost certainly won't share it with you--if they know where the compromise is, they can handle it much more effectively than a random customer can, and if they don't know for sure, they don't want you taking misguided action.

If it helps you feel better about going to the restaurant again, if they were in the habit of stealing every customer's card number and using it fraudulently the day after they visit the restaurant, it won't take very long for the credit card company to notice that pattern and crack down. So the odds are good that this won't be an ongoing occurrence.
posted by yuwtze at 11:39 AM on October 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

IMO it is not likely the restaurant itself (owner? manager?) is stealing card numbers if indeed it was stolen there. More likely it would be an employee (maybe a server or a manager) doing this without the owner knowing. For that reason, I think it may be worth a head's up to the restaurant, but in an informational rather than accusatory way.
posted by Glinn at 11:51 AM on October 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you tell the restaurant you think someone there did this, you may cost someone their job or cause them to be berated for something they didn't do. You can do your best to be informational about it, but it will most likely still be taken as an accusation.

"Someone who works here may have stolen my credit card number just FYI" is likely to upset a restaurant owner or front end manager and will probably cause some kind of drama for employees.

I worked as a server for a very long time in many different restaurants and I would be really surprised if a restaurant employee stole your card info. These days most restaurants have cameras all over the place and they make their staff feel like criminals for giving a customer an extra crouton so please explore other possible leads before alerting the restaurant.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 12:11 PM on October 7, 2021 [14 favorites]

Since this is a credit card -- and thus it's not your money that's being stolen -- don't take it upon yourself to investigate fraudulent activity. It's the credit card company's problem, and they are much better equipped to figure out what happened than you are.

If they ask for your assistance in providing more info, you can do that.
posted by theory at 12:22 PM on October 7, 2021 [12 favorites]

Recently had to deal with something similar, and yeah, it sucks, but if it's the same account it could've just as easily been someone that grabbed the old card info and used it at a coincidental point in time, so it's hard to say where the leak could've come from. As long as you informed the bank they'll reverse the charge and issue a new card with a completely new CC#.
posted by Aleyn at 2:01 PM on October 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Agree with theory on this one, but there was a case here in my neighborhood fairly recently where a card swiper had been hacked and was funneling the cc info of everyone who bought something to some evildoer. IIRC it was not an employee at all, ended up being some big criminal enterprise.

I would ask if anyone else you know who's been there has had fraudulent charges. If so you might disclose at that point that the restaurant may have a hacked reader or some such. It was pretty obvious around here at the time I think.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:39 PM on October 7, 2021

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