July 31, 2006

Credit Crime

Greg Abbott the Attorney General of Texas is focusing on a growing trend of credit card abuse. Many credit card users do not know that a credit card receipt with the full account number and expiration date upon it can be as injurous to your financial security as actually losing your credit card. Such a reciept in the hands of a professional criminal could cost you a great deal of money and many hours and resources trying to clear your name.

In 2003 the Texas Legislature enacted legislation to protect consumers from credit card abuse by requiring all businesses to conceal all of the digits of your account number, except for the last four, and the expiration date, on all receipts paid for with credit or debit cards. The deadline for all Texas retailiers to be in compliance with this law passed with the beginning of this year.
This law does make an exception for transactions in which the only means of recording the credit or debit card number is by handwriting or an imprint of the card. Merchants are also allowed to keep a copy of the receipt with the full account number and expiration date on it to process your transaction. Businesses who continue to print the entire account number on consumer receips are violating the law and can be penalized up to $500.00 for each month of noncompliance. Attorney General Greg Abbott's office and local prosecutors are responsible for the enforcement of this law.

Attorney General Greg Abbott asks the public to contact his office via it's website at
www.oag.state.tx.us or calling (800) 252-8011 to file a consumer complaint if you notice any receipt containing more than the last four digits of a credit card or debit card number.

There are other things suggested to protect your identity and prevent credit/debit card abuse. When using your credit or debit card keep an eye on your card at all times (when possible) to be sure no extra imprints are made. When dining out in Frisco last year, I handed my credit card over to pay for a dinner out my wife and I had taken, two days later I found online that the charge was for nearly double what the receipt said it should be. A few phone calls later got me the information that the waitress had not only been caught padding my credit card but she had admitted to keeping a copy of the card to suppliment her ill gotten gains at a later time. Never allow a salesperson to write down your driver's license or Social Securty number.

Beware of criminals who could tamper with your mail or trash, everyone should have an inexpensive shredder (crosscut is the best to have) to shred all those, "Pre-Approved Credit Card" offers and old bills that have all the information a crook would need to open an account in your name. Last month savvy residents in the Little Elm subdivision known as Villages of Eldorado noticed missing mail and notified the Little Elm post office. Postal officals investigating charged and later prosecuted the substitute mail carrier for allegidly stealing people's mail. Also check catalogues and magazine subscritions to ensure that your card number is not printed on the cover or mail order form (some companies actually do this). If you find it you can contact the company and request it be removed.

Never, ever give out your account number over the telephone unless you initiated the call and know your speaking with a reputable company. Ligitimate companies and financial institutions have polices to never call you and ask for or verify a credit or debit card number over the telephone. Examine your account statements carefull every month. If you suspect your account number has been compromised, immediately contact the financial institution and cancel the card. Failure to do this may leave you responsible for fradulent charges. I've made it a habit of checking all of our account information online at least once a week after finding that my wife's credit card had been hijacked by a teenager in California. I discovered this after seeing charges on my wife's account for thousands of dollars of computer equiptment to be shipped to a California address. Since I found the charge within days of it occuring I was able to stop the shipment and have the offender captured.

The Fair Credit Billing Act protects you if you report the loss of a credit card before it isused and the financial institution cannot hold you responsible for improper charges. If your card is used prior to being reported missing, you can be responsible for the first $50.00 of the unauthorized charges. Early reporting of fraud is extremely important. In addition you should conatct the three primary credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and Trans Union to have a security alert or freeze placed on your credit report to protect your financial security. It is also a great idea to request a copy of your credit report from the Annual Credit Report Request Service (recent laws force credit reporting agencies to provide you with one free report per year). Check your reports for unauthorized account activity and report unauthorized charges and accounts to the appropriate sources quickly. Keep in mind fraudulent use of credit cards is not limited to the loss or theft of actual credit cards. A criminal only needs to know your credit card number to make numerous charges against your account or open new credit accounts in your name. Consumers and law enforcement must work together to fight credit card fraud.

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