Credit card compromised…How to handle…Out to dinner with friends in Fiji…

Danny, Samantha, me, and Tom, standing outside our house in Pacific Harbour, Fiji.

Handling our five credit cards requires a certain amount of attention other than merely paying off the balance each month. The vast amounts we charge on the cards often including rents for three months, full cruise fares, pricey airline tickets, long term car rentals, groceries, and dining out. The new statements can be well into the thousands in a given month.

Keeping an eye on these expenses for their accuracy and for any potential unknown expenses, excess fees or instances of fraud drives me to check online every few days. 

With a tile for each credit card company on my touch screen desktop in Windows 8, it takes only seconds to log in and check each of the five cards with the fact they’re all from only two banks making the process easier. We seldom find an error.  When we do, we contact the toll-free number on the card and get to work to solve the problem.

Last year around this same time, one of the credit card companies had contacted us by phone and email to notify us of fraud charges that hadn’t yet posted in “pending transactions” making it impossible for us to see online. 

Danny’s curry dinner, which he said was good.

The credit card company’s system is sophisticated enough to be able to pick up “test” charges used by credit card fraud companies and individuals to determine if they will in fact be able to use the card for larger purchases.

Over the past year, most of our cards have been replaced with the supposedly more secure cards containing “computerized chips.” However, having these cards with chips hasn’t prevented fraud on the cards.

A few days ago, we received a fraud alert to which I immediately responded with a phone call. Yes, Tom’s card number with a chip that replaced his compromised card last December was compromised and charges had started rolling in, first in “test” charges for $1 and then hotel bills and fuel charges in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. 

How did this happen? This occurred both last year and this year (in December) on the card, we use most often when Tom usually handles the checking-out using that particular card when we’re dining out and purchasing products and groceries. 

We’ve been in Fiji for almost four months. Most likely at some establishment where we’d paid using the card, the number was noted and “sold” to those who conduct such illegal behavior across the globe. 

The upper portion of my plate contained the salad with the entrée on the bottom right. There was a tiny portion of squid, perhaps a tablespoon. To balance my meals carbs and protein, I must eat a larger portion of protein at least 6 ounces. Thus, I ordered a small steak, which worked well. (The plate appears larger in this photo).

The fact that we’re in Fiji didn’t necessarily create a greater risk. This transpires throughout the world with billions of dollars each year. No one is exempt from the potential risk.

It may surprise some, but when this happens, it’s not a personal serious situation. It is definitely not as serious and destructive as “identity theft” when a person’s entire credit profile is compromised, which may result in the life-changing destruction of one’s entire creditworthiness. A compromised credit card is a simple process for the customer:

1.  Immediately respond to the email and/or phone card from the credit card. Those with late payments or a poor credit card history may hesitate to return the call when they may assume the call is for collection purposes. Failure to respond to the inquiry can, in fact, create a more difficult situation after the fraudulent charges have been posted.

2. The quicker one returns the call, the better, using the phone number on the back of the card (for added security). The bank’s fraud department wants to decipher which charges the customer actually made as opposed to those charges made fraudulently to avoid further fraudulent charges. When doing so, the customer will not be charged any amount for the fraudulent charges. The concept that you’ll only be charged the first USD $50 is not true unless you are aware of some obscure stipulation in the bank’s regulations that allows for such a charge.  It’s unlikely.

3.  Carefully review all the charges you’ve made with the fraud department representative We’ve read online that there have been a few rare instances whereby customers of less than ideal ethics attempted to pass off some of their own purchases as fraudulent when they were not, hoping they’d “go away” during this process.  This behavior, in itself, is fraud and may result in termination of the card, bad credit ratings, and possible legal charges. 

4.  Upon the bank’s recommendation destroy the card from which the charges were made and any other cards with the same number. The card will no longer work after the company has posted the number as compromised. We usually cut the card into tiny pieces and dispose of the pieces. Even if the card could be pieced together as in a puzzle the fact the number has been flagged, it would never work anyway.

Tom and Samantha had the burger topped with egg and fries.

5.  When the new card arrives in the mail, immediately sign and activate the card which has a new number.Visit every website where you may have stored the card for frequent purchases, and change both the number and expiration date which will also be new, or the next time you make a purchase it will be declined. The three or four-digit number of the back near your signature will also have changed. Use your best judgment, only releasing this number of highly secure and reputable sites.

Done and done. When chip technology is used on a shared account, Tom and I each have a separate number as opposed to sharing the same card number. Thus, my card, a different number, wasn’t compromised. Until we receive the new card in an upcoming supplies shipment while in NZ, we’ll use other cards or my same card for this particular account.

While traveling, every 60 days, we contact the credit card companies either by phone or online to notify them of “travel alerts,” specifically in which countries we’ll be using the card including when we’re in the US in May 2017. The alerts only last 60 days. This information prevents the card from being declined when rightfully making purchases while traveling. This must be done each time one leaves their home country to avoid the resulting embarrassment and delays.

Feel free to contact us if any of this is confusing, or better yet, your credit card provider with specific personal inquiries.

On to the second part of today’s post. First off, our newly made friends, Samantha and Danny (he’s from Minnesota, she’s from Wisconsin, small world) have left Fiji to return to their new home in Seattle, where Danny returns to his medical residency (sure, Tom asked if Danny worked at “Seattle Grace”) and Samantha to her social work practice.

We noticed the lily pad flowers close at night as darkness fell while we dined at Oasis Restaurant.

You may ask, “How do we refer to people we met for short periods as “friends? Doesn’t a friendship require time and nurturing?”

In this life, with access only to short term relationships, we prefer to call those with whom we especially connect and interact in social settings, as friends. For us, these short-term interactions possess a special meaning often staying in touch for years to come. 

Dinner at the Oasis Restaurant at the Art Village was enjoyable with the lively conversation between the four of us. Tom enjoyed his burger, as the best of the three burgers he’s had to date in Pacific Harbour. 

My entrée was tricky; the portion tiny although tasty, a spicy squid and vegetable stir fry (no sugar, starch soy sauce or rice). It was no more than one cup of food with a small side salad without dressing. 

As an “intermittent fasting” advocate consuming one meal, no snacks a day, a one-cup portion of food with a salad without dressing won’t cut it. After the small entrée arrived, I ordered a steak, which was quite good, cooked to perfection. 

We shared a taxi ride home, hugged goodbye, and had the driver take today’s main photo of the four of us, once outside our house. It was wonderful to spend time with this lovely honeymoon couple and we’re grateful to our host Susan who encouraged our meeting.

Last night, we dined at Baka Blues in the Arts Village, which we’ll share photos and stories in an upcoming post in a few days. For today, we’re content to stay in on a rainy, hot, and humid day preparing enough of a dish to last for a few upcoming meals and to freeze the balance for a later date, as we wind down the time in Pacific Harbour, Fiji.

For our readers, take a break from the busy activities of the holiday season, grab a cup of coffee or tea and read our posts as they’ll continue through each day of the season with Tom’s upcoming birthday celebration on the 23rd, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

Photo from one year ago today, December 20, 2014:

Tom is at the far left.  TJ is in the middle and Jayden is on the far right after they decided they also needed haircuts. Three generations of Lymans having haircut simultaneously. Too cute! This was the last day, the hair salon was taking customers. They were closing the next day for the arrival of the lava flowing from Mount Kilauea. For more info and close up photos, please click here.

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