I have been reading (actually skimming) recent reports in the media and technical world that suggest the number one and two places where breaches of customer identification have occurred are food and beverage and hospitality. IM me if you'd like the acutal sites to which I refer.
The issue is one that hits hard home with me since within the space of two years I had a large, fraudulent charge made overseas (Australia) for $1400 on my credit card, and my Marriott Rewards number was stolen by persons unknown and used to transact business with Marriott Hotels in my name.
In both instances the problem was taken care of quickly and efficiently. I then (belatedly) enrolled in a credit monitoring service to ensure quicker notification of adverse issues that might arise. Now I check every statement and shred important data. (did that before but why not make doubly sure?)
So, words to the wise from a victim--be sure that your personal information is safe and secure. Trust, as in handing a credit card to a server at a restaurant, is common. If the system in which the data is entered by that server has been hacked as some reports suggest is common, the problems begin.
The safest method of payment is a CC, especially with an AMEX. I've had some fraud on CCs before and always the money is returned promptly and without much drama. Fraud on a Debit Card is bad news as is using a Debit Card. It is a essentially a portal to your banking account and can be drained very quickly. I don't even have a working Debit Card and you can have your bank set the limit as something very low, like $5 or less to avoid having issues.
If you have frequent fraud you can FREEZE your accounts with the Credit Bureaus. It isn't the easiest way to live since you have to THAW the account if you need credit for a new account at say a bank or cell service or CC, but it will stop any fraudulent activity. You have to pay to THAW, but it is like $3 or so.
The last time I had issues I put a 30 or 90 day freeze on my accounts with the credit bureaus (which is free if you have fraud and a police report). If you ever have fraud, call your local police department and file a report.
I check my CC accounts and bank transactions every day. Having had my CC info stolen twice by some less than reputable vendors (although they were main line retailers), I can say this about the experience:
In the first instance, I received a call that my card was being used for transactions in New York and was asked if I had possession of my card. They immediately cancelled the card while a transaction was taking place.
In the second instance, I discovered the problem by checking my accounts online. I immediately cancelled my card. Since this was a just received card renewal; this was the only charge on the new card; the fact that it was the new card info that was stolen was verified by CC security, I knew who had 'taken' my info. I was talking on the phone with the CC company security and discussing with security the information I had about where the card was stolen. They informed me that, even though these folks had already run up about $1500 in fraudulent transactions, they do not investigate or follow through on any issues. They just cancel the card.
I was told that some very astute thieves actually have the equipment to duplicate your charge card, including the security code that they copy when they have possession of your card. It is, in many instances, a bad employee who actually 'takes' your card info, then receives a kickback payment from the bad actors they transfer the information to who then use your stolen info.
In one instance (mentioned above) I directly identified the location of the vendor and the employee who 'took' my information to the police in a written complaint. I was told the information was very good and specific, but that they have bigger fish to fry and charge card theft is very low on their list of crimes to investigate. It really didn't matter that I had exactly who stole the info and exactly when and where.
I did contact the vendor's main headquarters directly after the non response from police and CC security and the company terminated the individual after investigating the information I provided to them.
So, I am now very aware that the only person who is interested in protecting the security of my information and acting expeditiously in thwarting efforts to stop CC theft or fraudulent activity is me. This is why I have every account in an online setup so I can quickly react to any suspected fraudulent issue. I do not and would never have a debit card. Someone with that info can wipe out an account and all the cash in it before one even can realize what is taking place.
Caveat emptor indeed!
One other thing about Debit Cards most people do not realize is the money MUST be in your account to cover the purchase AND any NSF fees. The money will most likely be returned, but it will take time and it could be 10 days or more before it is returned as the bank investigates. Because it can be used as a Credit Card a large amount can be charged before you are even aware it occurred.
The CC company will not tell you anything about where fraudulent purchases occurred. Your bank may divulge every detail...
I came home from vacation in 2009 to find a voice mail from Chase on my answering machine. I immediately returned their call.
The rep asked if I had been recently in Canada. I replied 'No, I just walked in the door from Italy'. She then asked if I had made any purchases at an IKEA store in Canada to which I replied, 'No, I've never even been in an IKEA store.'
Apparently, someone in Canada (Toronto, I think?) charged $6.xx at a Canadian IKEA on my Marriott Visa card. The charge was accepted. I guess that was a test to see if the transaction went through because she said they then went on to try to charge larger purchases which were rejected.
My credit card has never been out of my site except in restaurants where a server takes it to run it through the machine.
She sent me a form to complete for the $6.xx purchase and it was immediately removed from my billing statement.
Yea for Chase Marriott Visa!!!!
I always chose an ATM card (because of the difference in how they are treated legally from debit cards), but my bank recently gave me no choice when my ATM became effective. My response is that I will only use it as necessary at ATM machines, preferably my own bank's, and that I will use my Marriott Rewards VISA card for even the smallest purchase.
I've been lucky so far, but have the credit fraud protection just in case. And I too monitor my accounts online practically every day.
One good idea before travel is always to email your credit cards and email or call your bank to notify them where you will be traveling to. This usually avoids the embarrassment of your credit card being denied (though sometimes, they still are, especially in France, because of rewards fees they are charged) and any problems with getting money from an ATM.
Chase is really good with the MArriott VISA cards. I always send them the info of where I'm traveling a week or so in advance, including a European phone number with a request that they contact me by email if they have questions. They invariably do, but when I get home and can use my US phone again, I also find messages there as well. But the charges go through.
All good precautions especially the tip about putting a bank (Chase) on high alert prior to travelling - especially overseas. Does Chase offer that service as a special offering or bundled? What number or e-mail address do you contact? Having an account breached on domestic travel is not fun at all, it would be unthinkable to have it happen while abroad.
You just need to call the Customer Service phone number on the back of your credit cards to have them put an international travel note on your account. You tell them your travel dates and countries that you are visiting... so your card doesn't get frozen when you try to use it.
I also do the same thing with the banks whose ATM cards I'm using on the trip. I always take ATM cards from 2 different banks just in case one doesn't work or gets 'eaten'. Also, your PIN should only be 4 digits to work in foreign ATMs.
Another tip is to photocopy the front and back of your ATM and credit cards and put them in the hotel safe in case something happens to them. Or scan them and send yourself an email. Do the same with your passport.
Also before you go, consider registering yout itinerary with the US Department of State. As recent events have shown, some nations can go from relative calm to a flashpoint in days. You can find a link on the State website. In the event of a major catastrophe or violence registered travelers can be found and helped as necessary.
Additionally, if you have a brokerage issued debit card ask what additional protections come with the card: my visa linked to the brokerage accounts has additional value--better exchange rates, more fraud protection, etc. Not all have this but never hurts to ask.
With the lions share of Marriott hotels in the US, we do tend to be overly US-centric. Thank you for that point, Insiders is a global travel community and it certainly makes sense to register one's travel plans and itinerary with authorities in the country of residence/citizenship.