April 5, 2012

Last week a friend of mine noticed that there were a number of unusual charges on her credit card statement. They were all gas stations - a charge in Kelowna, a charge in Victoria, charges throughout the city and Lower Mainland where she never goes. And she never lost possession of her gold visa card. How did this happen?

She still doesn’t know and she is a senior bank branch manager. She notified the visa department of the fraud immediately upon discovering the unauthorized charges. The card has been now cancelled.

And then I saw in the Vancouver Sun April 3rd a news article about cyber theft involving Global Payments Inc. and 1.5 million credit cards in February and March 2012. MasterCard Inc, Visa Inc, American Express and Discover Financial Services have confirmed they were affected, which could expose their cardholders to fraudulent charges.

So, I send this warning to all of my followers and clients. Examine your visa and bank statements thoroughly every month. Although the micro chip technology adds a formidable security layer to protect consumers and banks, not all merchants have upgraded their machines and terminals. This is the reason why gas stations were targeted. They just swipe the card.

You don’t have to lose your credit card to become a victim!

Of course there are many ways to become a victim. The Better Business Bureau lists a number of scams.

  • Beware of ID theft when spring cleaning or throwing out your garbage. Shred sensitive documents.
  • Watch out for phishing scams. There have been many very convincing looking scams that includes the banks, the BBB and government departments.
  • Job scams and requests to fill in credit card info online are common.
  • Lottery scams and social media scams (you might download a virus that finds your passwords).
  • Cheque cashing and electronic banking scams that say there is a problem with your credit card open the door to theft.
  • Identity theft with unsuspecting hotel guests who receive a phone call saying that there is a problem with their credit card and then steal the information that’s provided.
  • Financial scams like we can help you with your mortgage payments.

I would like to add another few to the growing list of scammers - misrepresentations made by unscrupulous credit counselling and debt settlement companies in addition to the newly added lead generators now in the mix. Lead generators are websites where you input your contact information (thinking these entities will help you with your debt) then they sell your information to “someone” else - the prices range up to $75 per name. Given the fraud climate we are living in, do you think providing your contact information as a sale item is wise? I don’t!

 Some of the advertisements today make it appear to be so easy to settle off creditors and find freedom from debt problems or even instant debt relief. These assertions are simply false. There is nothing simple or easy about persuading creditors to take a loss. The Banks are not going to write off your debts up to 75% for no reason. Why should they, ask yourself – why should they? And let’s be honest your creditors do not have to. Claims made in ads I have seen and heard are false advertising.

Most credit card companies and banks will not agree to these ridiculous losses. If they are going to consider reducing your debt, demands will be made for proper documentation of all income, medical reports where appropriate, all kinds of details before even looking at a debt settlement or agreeing to a debt management plan. Not a simple process.

Moreover, Government debts like taxes and student loans will never accept an informal settlement proposal. Think about it, if you do not pay your Government debt that means every other taxpayer in Canada is going to have to pay more. Do you really think that will happen easily?

In closing, there are many predators in the financial stream. Remember to watch your mail and make sure you receive your financial statements and credit card bills as this is a well-established way for identity theft – breaking into mail boxes.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true – it usually is!

Happy Easter everyone.

Remember, if you are experiencing financial difficulties do not wait. Call Solutions Credit Counselling at 1(877)588-9491 or fill out our Debt Consolidation Questionnaire and get your Free Credit Counselling Advice today.

For more information visit Debt Canada - your Canadian credit education centre.

If you are a woman in debt, speak with Women and Money first. We specialize in helping women with their personal and business financeMoney management advice you can count on!

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