Fraudulent Charges & Identity Theft


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I was busy working at my desk earlier in the week when I saw an email from American Express come in with the words Fraud Protection Alert in the subject line.  I knew this wasn’t going to be good.

When I opened it, I found this message, “For your security, we regularly monitor accounts for possible fraudulent activity. Please review the attempted charge below which occurred within minutes of the timestamp of this message.”

Fraud protection alert American Express notification

And then I proceeded to get four more similar emails.

Someone in Eastern Europe was trying to go on an online shopping spree with my Amex and tried five separate times to buy a variety of different items.

Luckily, Amex contacted me via email and by phone, I called them back and told them, no, that wasn’t me on any of the attempted charges, they sorted things out on their end, I am not responsible for any of the charges or attempted charges, and they cancelled my existing card and are sending a new one to me.


Fairly painless but it could have been a lot worse.

Case in point, about two years ago, Scott had fraudulent activity with his Visa Debit Card, but because it was a debit card and tied to his checking account rather than a true credit card, the rules for him being liable for those charges were different.  To compound matters, he didn’t notice the charges and suspicious activity until about 32 days after the fact since he’s not a daily bank account checker.  He just checks online once a month or so, travels frequently and is just a busy person who doesn’t login to his online banking very frequently.   However, with his bank, if you don’t report suspicious charges within 30 days, there’s really nothing they could do for him or were willing to do for him.  So he (we) were out a couple thousand dollars.  Sigh.

In his case, there were no calls, no emails saying hey, we think this charge of $2000 from a Romanian brothel may be suspicious.  Nope.  The bank processed the charge and because there was enough money in his checking account to cover the charge, it went through.

I give Amex their props because they were with contacting me and making the situation was painless as possible for me and I wouldn’t have been liable for any charges even if they had gone through.

However, it does scare me that we all live in this very virtual, online world where numbers and keystrokes are all we have and how easy someone else can have them, too.

Ironically, this happened on the same day I thought my blog was hacked.

Desktop mac with blog on its front page

Turns out, it wasn’t hacked, and was a server failure, but the panic level was the same and reinforced how tied we all are to technology.  One glitch, one snag, one server decides to have a hiccup, and worlds come to a crashing halt with lots of sweaty palms and white knuckles and ohmygods later.

Another thing that scares me is all the “fake” accounts out there.  Fake Twitter accounts, fake email accounts, fake Facebook pages; people pretending to be or trying to impersonate someone else.

Identity theft is such a huge problem and I’ve read stories about people having their lives essentially ruined because someone stole their identity.  Their bank accounts drained, crimes committed using another person’s name or identity, fraudulent shopping sprees, credit cards opened in the name of someone else, mortgages taken out in other people’s name, using another person’s social security number, it goes on and on.

It’s a horrible, horrific problem and it’s much easier for the criminals to do these things, often which take seconds or hours to do, but can take years to un-do.  And sometimes, it’s not ever really un-done.

For example, if someone opens 17 credit cards in your name and with your social security number, maxes them out, and never makes the payments on them, that is all still going to show up on your credit report.  From the amount of cards opened to the credit lines being maxed to no payments ever made on any of it.  Default city.

You may not be financially liable for it, but you will spend thousands of hours of your time and precious energy trying to clear your good name and credit.  Unfortunately, your credit score will be adversely effected for some time, which can compromise your ability to do everything from buying a house to opening a credit card legitimately, or even getting a job because yes, prospective employers in many cases now run credit checks on prospective employees and if you show up with a bad Fico score, through no fault of your own, you can likely kiss that job goodbye.  Sad and harsh, but true.

And that’s just one little example of the ways in which Identity Theft can change and ruin lives.   It gets me so riled up to think about crimes like this and what it means for the person who has it happen to them!

On lighter matters, after fraudulent charges snafu, it was time for chocolate.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge squares

When the going gets tough, the tough eat chocolate

And it’s the easiest fudge ever.  Just turn on your microwave and melt a couple things together and you’re set.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge squares


1. Have you ever had any fraudulent charges or fraudulent activity on any of your accounts?  What happened?  How did you find out about it and were you financially responsible for any of the charges?

2. Have you ever had your identity compromised?  Have you been the victim of identity theft or known anyone who has?

It’s such a horrible, awful problem.  I shudder to think about it, actually.

There are so many websites out there with tips on what to do and also ways to prevent things from happening but really, it seems in many ways, that we are at the mercy of others.

As my grandma used to say, not everyone in this world has good intentions.   And unfortunately where there’s a will, there’s a way (for both positive and negative things).

Sadly, if a criminal wants to steal your identity, he or she probably could.  But there are things we can do in an attempt to prevent it and to try to make it more difficult for them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories on this.  Hopefully sharing tips and bringing awareness to these things makes us all a bit safer.

P.S. Thanks for the Manna Bread Giveaway entries


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Welcome to AverieCooks! Here you’ll find fast and easy recipes that taste amazing and are geared for real life. Nothing fussy or complicated, just awesome tasting dishes everyone loves!

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  1. Luckily in Canada, we are not responsible for any fraudulent credit card activity. My credit card company also will call me any time the spending on my credit card seems unusual for me.

  2. Amex is on point and so is BOA even though I dislike doing business with them both (that’s another story!). Both my husband and I have received email messages similar to yours although not as far a Europe! It is scary just how tied we are to technology and that’s there’s no easy way to clear your name once your identity has been stolen.

  3. Thanks for bringing up such a relevant topic!!
    I am sooo glad they contacted you! I wish all banks would do that…
    Fortunately things like that never happened to me (knocks on wood).

  4. How awesome of AmEx to be proactive about such things. Financial matters are scary without worries of identity theft, so in today’s world those things are just added fears. I will take chocolate any day though :)

  5. Just last Christmas someone tried to hack Jason’s bank card. When he tried to use it all he got was a message to call the bank. Someone had tried to take $1000 from his account! They cancelled his card and issued a new one and he wasn’t responsible to the $$. What a pain in the ass, but better than what happened to Scott!!

  6. Last year, two days before Christmas I got a phone call from Mastercard saying my card had been compromised, and was closed. Bad time for a credit card to be closed! I was out of town, away from home for the next two weeks. I got them to overnight me a new card, which really took four days, since it was the holiday.

    And then a few weeks ago, my amazon account was truly hacked. Not as big a deal, but a HUGE pain in the ass. Since my credit card was linked to the account, I had several hundered dollars worth of charges. That sucked. I had to create a whole new acct, lost all my informaiton, including my wish list, which was FULL of stuff! And my affiliate acct, etc. Not fun.

  7. OMG, I am so sorry that all that happened to you. When you said your blog was hacked and all that you had lost, my heart immediately broke for you, because I know exactly what you mean! I lost a ton of pics about 3 years ago and I was devastated by it.

    Ironically, I have the same type of credit protection with my credit card and I have had some alerts when it wasn’t fraudulent. For example, last year I was in Ny, Philly, Ny, Detroit and bought a very expensive electronic in Detroit, and the credit card shut down in Detroit for said purchase. I don’t travel like that (3 cities in a weeks time), so I’m glad it caught it, but it was a nuisance at the time.

  8. We are big Amex fans here for that reason. My brother once booked plane tickets on his when he usually doesn’t make big purchases like that, and they temporarily suspended his account (he was in France at the time). But hey, it looked suspicious and it was better to be safe than sorry! All he had to do was confirm that yes, he did book those tickets on purpose and he was good to go.

  9. Averie you poor thing!! What a DRAG! Ugh. People should just be honest and work like the rest of us do to make money!!!
    Luckily, I’ve never run into fraudulent charges.

  10. Ah, I’m so glad things are clearing up! You are going into more detail about the very things that I was mentioning in my comment yesterday (even the cheer-up chocolate) :) –I’m glad that you’re addressing it, as it really is something people need to know about.

    Props to AmEx–that’s pretty awesome vigilance on their part–and yours!

  11. ugh. i had my wallet stolen sophomore year of college. at that time, illinois printed social security numbers on licenses. whoever stole the wallet used my ss# to drain both of my checking accounts, max out my visa, and attempt to obtain a loan before we realized it. talk about a nightmare.

  12. Wow, so glad AMEX is on it! I saw this an though “Oh man, hacked and identity theft in the same week? Averie needs some good vibes!” I haven’t had experiences with identity theft, but I know it can wreak havoc on your life, finances, credit etc. Hope everything turns out ok!

  13. Oh my gosh, how scary!! I am SO glad that you got it figured out quickly! I think everyone needs to keep closer tabs on their bank account.

  14. So glad your ID was not compromised. I do an entire lesson on ID Theft and it’s one that I think more young people need to hear. We are SOOOOO bad at keeping our personal information in check and make it literally seamless for someone to suck us dry in an instant. I think more people just need to be aware. That’s all.

  15. This just happened recently to my boyfriend. Someone took out DOZENS of payday loans. It’s been a headache fighting with collectors and trying to figure out what steps to follow to help fix this. It’s terrible and thank god for you that AMEX stayed on top of there stuff!

  16. I have never had any identity theft, but the Husband actually just had his credit card number stolen last week and had about $1000 of fraudulent charges made. He got all the money recovered but it was just a pain as he found out about it at like 10 at night and was about ready to head to bed but spent the next three hours talking to someone from customer service.

  17. Identity theft is so scary and so real. When I used to work in retail during college, people would sometimes get offended when I asked for their ID when they paid using a credit card. I wanted to shake every single one of them! I know at least some of my colleagues who stopped asking because they were tired of people getting mad at them all the time.

    Well, if you get mad at someone because they ask for your ID, you’re asking for your credit card to get stolen. Because then that person may not check the ID and then your credit card is out potentially thousands of dollars! I never get that.

    So glad it worked out for you!

    1. how bout it…it’s a bit of a PITA to pull our your ID but it takes 1 extra second. good for you for checking and “troubling” people….if they only knew the trouble of dealing with fraudulent charges, id theft, etc!

  18. wow, so glad amex was so on the ball…that is awesome. have to say my mastercard and my bank are both really good – we went shopping to toronto, made a few purchases and within the hour the mastercard company called to ensure we really were the ones making the purchases.
    sorry to hear about scott’s case – that is really bad luck.
    luckily, i have never had any issues. the only thing is that my visa got charged two times in august when i purchased an online ticket to see glee the movie – um, it was not worth the $13, so DEFINITELY not worth $26! but the bank reversed the charge, no prob. great service.
    thanks for sharing info on this topic, averie. scary what can happen!!

  19. A few months back a fraudulent online website stole money from me after I ordered a camera lens and then canceled the order. I didn’t realize for about a month that they never refunded my money, so when I went to look into it… turned out that it was not a real company at all and there no contact info. Major Ugh. My bank is still working on it but I’m not sure I’ll ever see the money. I learned from it though… so I guess all was not lost.

    1. yes i remember this whole fiasco. keep me posted on how it all pans out.

      and if you’re still loving the lens and what the next lens on your radar screen is!

  20. Lordy Averie, you have had a WEEK!!! I hope things calm down for you by the end of it!! I had my credit card stolen when I was in grad school, and it was SUCH an ordeal. I think the worst part is how vulnerable it makes you feel…ugh.

  21. What a nightmare! I’ve been lucky so far (touch wood!) but I’m sure I’ll end up with my credit card numbers gone at some point. I try to keep an eye on my credit rating and stuff because I hate the idea of there being someone else using my identity, it really freaks me out, but I could do a lot more to protect myself I know.

  22. It’s sadly a sign of the times when “to report fraud” is an option when you call your bank now. This happened to my husband a few months ago but he had a good experience too – thankfully. We always make sure to call the credit card companies when we are headed out of town to let them know we will be using them in new cities. It relieves a lot of hassle and they seem to appreciate it.

    So happy to hear that your blog wasn’t hacked!

  23. Glad you got everything sorted out ! That is awesome that they were in touch so quickly.

    One time my father’s credit card was stolen, and within thirty minutes, the thief went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and bought 5 or 6 REALLY nice fishing poles. Even though at the time it wasn’t a fun situation, it is kind of funny to look back on. Of all things to do…

  24. My credit and debit card numbers were stolen in back-to-back months {which just so happened to coincide with finals + college graduation!}, but thankfully everything was settled quickly!

  25. I am always happy when my bank is on top of things like that; the inconvenience of a new credit card is far smaller than the inconvenience of identity theft.

    this happened to Jason a few years ago – someone took mail out of the mailbox, walked into DMV where – !! – they GAVE the thief an ID with his photo and Jason’s info! he then went to several places, opened accounts (tire store, several department stores) and racked up tens of thousands in Jason’s name. within days the police contacted Jason, after finding his info in a stolen car (yep, this guy was stealing all kinds of things!). it took Jason several months to clear it all up – some companies were GREAT and others were difficult even with police involvement. such a mess.

    sorry all this is happening to you! and I wish people weren’t so easily fooled – like Heather WTB said, the scams sound and look SO fake to me, but they must work because they’re all over!

    1. tens of thousands in Jason’s name AND months to clear on your part and the responsibility is on you to deal with it all, not the criminal…THAT’s what also gets me so riled up. Glad to hear things resolved but what a hassle.

      and I saw your tacos today on your blog, rather than in Reader :) Beautiful!

  26. I had my wallet stolen in NYC last year by a homeless guy in Starbucks. I know this b/c it was caught on camera and I can remember the guy “oddly” standing over my chair for an extended period of time. I realized it was stolen within 15 minutes of it happening and my credit/debit cards were all already notifying me. I got a call from Wachovia within 15 minutes b/c he was attempting to use my debit card as a credit card (something I never did), all my other credit cards were maxed out on metro cards for the subway. The scarier part was my license and checkbooks were also in there. I was on a work trip and was traveling from NYC-Boston-Maine and then home so I was going to be without ID for 5 days. I ended up filing a police report just in case I got pulled over while driving w/o any ID whatsoever. What a mess! The thing that scared me the most was that my license was somewhere in NYC. I was VERY afraid of identity theft. Thankfully, my credit cards all reversed charges, my banks changed/closed out my accounts and I was able to put an identity theft warning on all the major credit reporting agencies in case anyone tried to open an account in my name for the next 6 months.
    This stuff is no joke! It’s a scary world out there! <–haha I sound like a grandma!

    1. That is scary that he was so close to you and yet you never fully realized it was happening til it…happened. And yes on “my license was somewhere in NYC. I was VERY afraid of identity theft.”…scary!

  27. Oh girl, good thing they caught it. I had that happen with someone buying really fantastic perfume (based on price) in Europe. Thankfully my bank did the same thing and it was taken care of quickly. I manage some FB pages for work and am amazed at the fake accounts that pop up and like the page SOOO obviously fake. It is scary.