Why you should be scrutinizing every transaction

There’s no good time for a company to have a financial security breach, but it’s hard to find a worse time to have one than the start of the holiday shopping season. Target confirmed that as many as 40 million credit and debit card holders may have been affected for purchases made between November 27th and December 15th of this year.

Members of my family had made purchases at Target over the past few weeks, and have had their cards replaced. It’s an inconvenience to need to reset subscription payments and update credit card information in numerous places.

Though over the years I’ve found credit card issuers to have more of a hair trigger than they used to when they detected potential fraudulent activity on the card (which is also an inconvenience) I’ve also found them to be very accommodating when resolving issues with such activity. They send replacement cards promptly and generally take me at my word when I report the activity.

I credit part of this to the fact that we report things promptly, and know which transactions we did or did not make. We don’t always catch them immediately after they were made, but it’s not more than a couple of weeks afterwards.

Looking at every transaction is important. The main reason is that thieves aren’t going to charge a 55″ TV to a stolen card — if they’re smart, that is. They’ll charge a shirt, or some food, or some small purchase because it likely blends in with the rest of the purchases a lot better.

Stolen credit card information isn’t worth a whole lot on the black market: anywhere from $4 to $25 or $30. The credentials on these cards “pay for themselves” with a single modest purchase. It’s “better” to go slow and steady and not go for the brass ring.

Though the algorithms that credit card issuers use to catch fraudulent activity are pretty good, the only foolproof way is to verify every transaction on your statement against your records. Only you know what you bought. Otherwise, this low-level drain on your account could go on for a long time.

John Wedding

Husband. Father. Web publisher. Musician. John has blogged at Mighty Bargain Hunter since 2005, helping people to recognize the good deals in life.

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